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
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.