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It's No Replay, That Is No. 22 for the Bruins : Two Decades Later, UCLA Once Again Has a Mel Farr Playing in the Rose Bowl

October 23, 1985|TRACY DODDS | Times Staff Writer

Mel Farr, No. 22, will be one of the starting running backs for UCLA in the Rose Bowl on Saturday.

Yes, this is 1985. No, Pasadena has not been caught in a time warp. It's already a new generation. This is Mel Farr, Jr.

His father, Mel Farr, No. 22, was one of the starting running backs for UCLA in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day, 1966, when the Bruins upset Michigan State, 14-12.

UCLA Coach Terry Donahue remembers it well. Tommy Prothro was the coach, then, and Donahue was a starting defensive tackle. It's just real hard for him to believe that he is now coaching the son of one of his teammates. Time flies, huh?

Farr Sr. is now a former all-pro player, a Detroit Lion alum. He has a Ford dealership and a 7-Up bottling plant in Detroit. Donahue is in his 10th season as UCLA's coach.

"Recruiting Mel Farr Jr. was very strange for me," Donahue said. "I sat there in their living room feeling, suddenly, very old."

It really didn't take too much to convince Mel Jr., to choose UCLA. After all, he was born in Santa Monica and his father did play for the Bruins.

To go to UCLA, he was even willing to convert from star tailback to workhorse fullback. As a high school senior, Farr had rushed for 1,216 yards and scored 15 times while leading Brother Rice to a 12-0 record and the Michigan state title.

"When I was being recruited, it didn't matter," he said. "Now that I'm a fullback, I just have to accept my role and go ahead and be the best fullback I can possibly be."

He was one of just three freshmen to play for the Bruins last season, getting some time as the tight end in motion.

Now, as a sophomore, he's being a very good fullback. He's the starter, in fact. His numbers aren't overwhelming because he is sharing the position with another good player, junior Marcus Greenwood. They split time almost evenly.

This season, Farr, 6 feet and 214 pounds, has carried 45 times for 232 yards, an average of 5.2. Greenwood, 5-11 and 210, has carried 37 times for 215 yards, an average of 5.8. Farr also has caught three passes, Greenwood two.

"The fullbacks are a key ingredient to our offense," Donahue said. "We are making people play defense against our full formation. The fullbacks are averaging more yards than our tailbacks. . . . Having them both is an advantage for the coaches. The only advantage for the players is that they realize they can go 100% because somebody is going to come in and relieve them soon. It makes for a very competitive situation. And it's nice for us to know that we have two guys who can do the job. They are both quick. They are both strong and fast.

"I like them both."

Farr said: "There is an advantage to sharing the position because, with all the blocking and everything, you can get pretty banged up. You can get sore. This way, we'll both last longer, maybe make it through the whole season.

"But the disadvantage is that you don't get the ball as much. When you finally get it in your hands, it's like you're on a mission."

He certainly isn't complaining, though. "All things considered, I didn't expect things to be going so well so soon. This season is going pretty well for me."

Better, no doubt, than if he were competing with the three tailbacks for a share of the ball.

Fullback just might turn out to be a good position for him. He looks as if he's been doing some serious work in the weight room to handle the more physical job. Farr looked down at his muscular arms and shrugged. "Most of this, I inherited," he said. "I need to do a lot more work in the weight room."

Donahue pointed out some other assets that Farr brought with him: "He's very intelligent. He has a real knack for understanding football. What enabled him to play as a freshman was that he adjusted so quickly to the system. A lot of freshman are overwhelmed by it. Some are just in awe that they're playing major college football. Mel has been around pro football all his life. He's been in pro locker rooms. This was nothing awesome to him."

Nor to his younger brother, Mike, who is a freshman flanker. Mike is red-shirting this season.

There will be a family reunion of sorts for the Farr family this weekend when Mel Sr. returns for an alumni dinner that will honor the Rose Bowl team from New Year's Day, 1966.

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