Brett Hundley gets it.
As the UCLA quarterback prepares to play the final game of a most storied career with the Bruins, he was asked to reflect on his legacy.
“A legacy isn’t just about football, it’s also about what you do off the field,” Hundley said. “It’s about being able to help others, starting a walk for epilepsy, using my platform to touch others and help others and be a mentor to others.”
And beating USC?
“[Laughs] That’s a huge part of the UCLA experience, and to be able to go 3-0 in that rivalry is pretty special,” he said. "Not many teams have put together three wins in a row against them, so that’s something I’ll remember forever.”
Hundley’s UCLA career officially comes to an end following the Valero Alamo Bowl on Friday against No. 11 Kansas State in San Antonio.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said. “When you see me crying and crawling off the practice field, that’s probably when I’ll know it’s about to be over.”
Hundley’s career achievements are as plentiful as they are noteworthy. Chief among them:
He has run or thrown for a touchdown in 38 of 39 career games (the only game he didn’t score was this year against Texas, when he was injured in the first quarter).
His 74 touchdown passes are the most in school history.
He’s the school’s career leader in total offense (11,481).
He’s had more than 300 yards of offense in 19 games – a school record – and he owns five of the 10 400-yard offensive games in UCLA history.
He’s the first Bruin to throw for at least 3,000 yards in three different seasons.
“When I picked a school, I didn’t want to be a part of something that was already established and fully built,” Hundley said. “When I came here, I wanted to help be a part of bringing UCLA back to something special.”
He’s also the first to acknowledge that it’s not “his” legacy. It’s also the legacies of players like Johnathan Franklin, Anthony Barr and Eric Kendricks that have helped the Bruins win nine games in 2012, 10 games last year and in a position to win 10 this season – if they can negotiate Kansas State.
“I think he understood that the culture was changing and he had a chance to play a big role in that,” UCLA offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone said of Hundley’s decision to return for the 2014 season. “He knew he needed some more work and the best coach in the world is experience. He understood another year would be advantageous for him. But at the same time, he knew we were laying a foundation, and he wanted to see it through and finish what he started.”
Mazzone was the offensive coordinator at Arizona State when Hundley was going through the recruiting process at nearby Chandler. Per Hundley’s ESPN.com recruiting evaluation: “This guy is as close of a replica of Donovan McNabb as you will find at the high school level in terms of measurables and physical tools.” Sounds like an OC’s dream. But Mazzone’s advances were quickly rebuffed.
“We recruited him for about a day,” Mazzone said. “He said no way. I’m going to UCLA. So we moved on. He’s a pretty stubborn kid. He has his convictions.”
Circumstance, however, brought Mazzone and Hundley together anyway when Dennis Erickson was relieved at ASU and Jim Mora was hired at UCLA.
“He was raw when he got here, but he had all of the physical abilities,” Mazzone said. “He had some growing up to do in terms of pocket presence. But mentally, he was ready for anything. And a lot of what he’s accomplished, he did with a lot of freshmen, sophomores and redshirt freshmen around him. He didn’t walk into a situation with a junior- or senior-heavy line. He’s carried a lot of the burden.”
And Friday he’ll carry it one more time. The Bruins have won 10 of their past 11 nonconference games, with the last out-of-league defeat coming to Baylor in the 2012 Holiday Bowl. Hundley was brilliant in last year’s 42-12 victory over Virginia Tech in the Sun Bowl, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for two more. He called his 86-yard touchdown run in that game “the most exciting play of my career.”
Against Kansas State, he has one more chance to bring the excitement that has endeared him to UCLA fans for three seasons, while also leaving a slew of records in his wake.
“He’s helped us build excitement around this program,” Mora told reporters earlier this month. “I think this last game is very important for him and his legacy. Hopefully he goes out on a high note.”