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UCLA's Kevin Prince is enjoying senior season even as a backup

The Bruins quarterback spent the last three years as the starter but now acts as a sounding board for redshirt freshman Brett Hundley. Prince's career winds down when UCLA plays Stanford on Saturday.

November 22, 2012|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince sets up to throw a strike to receiver Nelson Rosario in the first quarter of a Pac-12 game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
UCLA quarterback Kevin Prince sets up to throw a strike to receiver Nelson… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Kevin Prince has left pieces of himself here and there while playing quarterback for UCLA. He has been in the training room almost as much as team trainers.

On Saturday, his career winds down when the Bruins play Stanford. His will be a Senior Day a little different from others.

Prince spent the last three years as UCLA's starting quarterback, when he wasn't injured. He returned from a shoulder injury to push the Bruins to a bowl bid last season.

His senior season has been spent mostly as a spectator, but not an unhappy one with the Bruins (9-2 overall, 6-2 Pac-12 Conference) going to the conference title game.

"It's definitely been different," Prince said, "but I enjoy being a part of something special, a season where we're working to the goals we set at the start of the season. In past seasons, we set these high goals and halfway through we couldn't reach them. This has been awesome."

Prince has been more a part of it than most people know.

He has thrown only four passes in mop-up duty. But he has also been a sounding board for quarterback Brett Hundley, whose breakout season as a redshirt freshman has the Bruins eyeing the Rose Bowl. Prince and Hundley are roommates on trips and when the team stays in a hotel before a home game.

"He's been amazing," Hundley said. "He talks me through situations that I have not had to deal with before. Things starting quarterbacks should know, like how to talk with the media after a bad game or a win. I can talk with him about anything. He's like a big brother."

Prince handled the ups and downs. He has thrown for 4,277 yards in his career and engineered big victories at Tennessee and Texas. Yet injuries — a broken jaw, concussions, separated shoulders —never let him build on success. Even now, his shoulder could use surgery, though he will opt for rehabilitation while pursuing a professional career.

In 2008, Prince strung together three consecutive victories to get the Bruins to the EagleBank Bowl. Last season, he returned from an injury to win three of the last five games, including a victory over 20th-ranked Arizona State, to get the Bruins to the Kraft Fights Hunger Bowl.

"Later on, I'll have time to reflect on my career," Prince said.

What he already knows is, "it's going to feel weird not coming out to practice and being part of the team."

Prince hopes to extend his playing career, but has explored other possibilities by talking "to connections I have made since I came here." He is also engaged to former UCLA gymnast Tauny Frattone.

"It will be a different world next year, so I'm going to enjoy this," Prince said.

One big highlight already came last week — UCLA's victory over USC.

"It obviously was not as sweet because I wasn't in the game, but it was nice to be part of the team that finally did it," Prince said.

Thankful

Former UCLA offensive lineman Nick Ekbatani, who lost the lower portion of his left leg in a motorcycle accident last summer, set the bar for thankfulness Thursday.

He tweeted, "Remember when Luke Skywalker got his arm cut off? I'm like him, only it's my leg. I will wear a black sock forever in his honor."

Information about the Big Nick Fund, set up to help with medical and rehabilitation costs, is at http://www.gofundme.com/venb8.

Injury report

Receiver Kenneth Walker (concussion) did more in practice and could play against Stanford this week. Receiver Devin Lucien (broken collarbone) was not cleared to play.

Defensive end Ellis McCarthy had an MRI exam on his right knee Wednesday. Though it did not show extensive damage, he was not in uniform for practice Thursday and is unlikely to play Saturday. McCarthy, a freshman, had arthroscopic surgery on the knee in August.

chris.foster@latimes.com

twitter.com/cfosterlatimes

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