Linebacker Benjamin Lorier's UCLA football career did not begin with much fanfare three years ago.
After starting 18 games in two seasons at Cal State Northridge, Lorier found himself without a team when the Matadors dropped football after the 2001 season.
Instead of going to another Division I-AA school, Lorier decided to walk on at UCLA, where he "started at the very bottom," said the fifth-year senior. "I was a fifth-string linebacker who had to move my way up."
On Dec. 23, Lorier's UCLA journey will end with him starting at inside linebacker against Wyoming in the Las Vegas Bowl.
"I'm just really excited to go out as a starter," said Lorier, who will replace injured junior Spencer Havner, who had surgery on his right knee Friday. "I had to work ... to get to this point. Nothing came easy but it shows that all of my efforts paid off."
In 2002, Lorier redshirted as he worked mainly as a scout team player but before the next season, Coach Karl Dorrell rewarded him with a scholarship. Lorier spent 2003 playing mostly on special teams and finished with 12 tackles, including seven in the Silicon Valley Classic when he replaced injured starter Brandon Chillar.
This season, Lorier continued his role as a special teams "specialist," and he also got a chance to start two games when Havner filled in for injured middle linebacker Justin London. In 11 games, Lorier has made 24 tackles, including 13 solo, to go along with two blocked punts.
"You're always going to miss your leading tackler who leads the conference in tackles," Dorrell said of Havner, a three-year starter and second-team Walter Camp Foundation All-American. "But when Ben's played, he's played well."
Running back Maurice Drew and Havner were named co-winners of the team's most-valuable-player award Saturday at UCLA's 86th annual football awards banquet. Other winners were Matt Clark and Manuel White (outstanding seniors), London and White (best leadership), Paul Mociler and Eric McNeal (most improved) and Justin Medlock and Lorier (outstanding special teams players).