Drew says he's turning pro to honor late grandfather
LOS ANGELES -- UCLA tailback and kick returner Maurice Drew will pass up his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
Drew, selected to the All-America first team as an all-purpose player, led UCLA in rushing the past three years. He ran for 914 yards and 13 touchdowns this season to help the Bruins to a 10-2 record and No. 16 ranking in The Associated Press poll.
Drew said his decision to turn pro was to honor the wish of his late grandfather, who had a heart attack in the stands at the Rose Bowl during a UCLA game on Sept. 10 and died shortly afterward.
"That was something he and I had talked about earlier. I wasn't worried about it, wanted to make sure this season went well," Drew said Saturday during a conference call. "My grandmother told me after the USC game [Dec. 3] that he had told her that he wanted me to go to the NFL.
"I'd do anything he wanted."
Drew lived with his grandparents, Maurice and Christina Jones, in Pinole, Calif., near San Francisco, for much of his youth. His grandfather was 69 when he died.
The 5-foot-8, 205-pound Drew, expected to be chosen sometime in the first three rounds of the draft, averaged a Division I-A-record 28.5 yards on 15 punt returns this season, running three back for touchdowns. He likely would be used as a returner and spot running back in the NFL.
"Maurice has made the decision that he feels is best for himself and his family," UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said in a statement. "While I would counsel players to enjoy the college experience and earn a degree, I am supportive of his decision to move onto the next stage of his life.
"Maurice is a great young man and he has been a joy to coach for the last three years. He has been a key component in the rebuilding of this program."
Eligible underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to declare whether they will enter the draft.
The Bruins, who had a string of late comebacks, are losing the bulk of their high-powered offense.
Quarterback Drew Olson and tight end Marcedes Lewis are seniors who have used up their eligibility. Those two and Drew combined for 48 of the Bruins' 53 touchdowns on offense and special teams this season.
Drew, dazzling in the open field, set a UCLA record with 4,655 career all-purpose yards in 36 games. His 39 touchdowns included 16 of 40 yards or more, including four punt returns and two kickoff returns for scores.
Slowed at times by various injuries during his career, Drew was hurt -- a mild left shoulder separation -- in the first quarter of the Bruins' 50-38 Sun Bowl victory over Northwestern and rushed only three times for 14 yards.
"We will miss Maurice, but we have Chris Markey, Kahlil Bell and Derrick Williams in the program. Chris and Kahlil showed what they are capable of during the Sun Bowl," Dorrell said. "In addition, we are recruiting several running backs and are looking to sign some top prospects on February 1."
Markey rushed for 150 yards and Bell for 136, both career highs, in the Bruins' 50-38 Sun Bowl win over Northwestern.
UCLA also has a highly regarded quarterback waiting in the wings. Ben Olson, who redshirted a year at BYU before going on a religious mission, joined the Bruins last year and battled Drew Olson, no relation, for the starting job in fall camp.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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