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UCLA's Paul Perkins', Brett Hundley's connection dates to childhood

The running back and quarterback ran for the same track club as kids, played for the same high school football team and now have chances to shine together in the Bruins' backfield.

October 11, 2013|By Chris Foster
  • UCLA running back Paul Perkins gets past New Mexico State linebacker Bryan Bonilla as safety Tre Wilcoxen moves in for the tackle during a game earlier this season.
UCLA running back Paul Perkins gets past New Mexico State linebacker Bryan… (Chris Carlson / Associated…)

The apple doesn't run far from the tree.

Running back Paul Perkins and quarterback Brett Hundley, UCLA's All-Chandler (Ariz.) High backfield, disagree about one thing: Who's faster.

They met as children, not far removed from midday naps, while running for the Arizona Cheetahs Track Club.

"I was faster," Hundley says.

Says Perkins: "What? He's lying. He's definitely lying."

And now …

"I can still put up a race," Hundley says.

Says Perkins: "He's fast. He's not that fast."

A stern fatherly hand might be needed. Except Paul "Bruce" Perkins and Brett Hundley Sr. have their own tongue-in-cheek issues.

Both were running backs, Perkins at Arizona State and Hundley at Arizona.

If challenged today, the elder Perkins says, "Oh yeah, I can beat him."

Hundley scoffs at the notion and says, "I can bust Bruce up, no problem."

From father to son to Chandler to the Bruins' backfield, Perkins and Hundley are all but joined at the hip, and thoroughly enjoy giving each other lip. They even share a UCLA dorm suite.

When UCLA plays football against California on Saturday night, Perkins will move in behind Hundley, replacing the injured Jordon James.

"We're friends back there, calming each other down when things are going south, mellowing each other out," Perkins says.

Perkins was effective as a backup to James, offering the Bruins a different look.

"I don't want to say we're a finesse offense, but we're such a space-orientated offense it's nice to have a guy who will put his pads down and be physical," offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone says of Perkins.

James was the nation's fifth-leading rusher through three games, then suffered an ankle injury against Utah. Perkins carried a heavy load in the second half.

"We really appreciated that moment," Bruce Perkins says. "To see them in the same backfield again, with Brett handing him the ball, was neat."

Perkins, a redshirt freshman, gained 92 yards, 36 coming on a fourth-quarter field-goal drive that broke a 24-24 tie.

"You see the way he runs, the way he goes about all his business, he is very calm," says Hundley, who was a year ahead of Perkins at Chandler High. "Watch him run. He is so smooth, but fast."

So who's faster is irrelevant, to both generations.

"Don't ask us to race; we might blow out our hamstrings," Perkins' father says.

Says Hundley's dad: "I have one sprint left in me. I call it my 'Rottweiler run.' I'm saving it for that."

The two families have been close since the Cheetahs.

"They were the two youngest on the team, so they identified with each other," says Ore Perkins, Paul's mother.

And …

"Brett is fast, Paul is very fast," she says.

The families tailgate together at UCLA games, ignoring their past Arizona State-Arizona rivalry. And they check in with each other's son.

"When we come to town alone, we make sure we see Paul," Brett Hundley Sr. says. "When they come to town, they make sure they see Brett."

The Cheetahs had both kids on the fast track to Chandler.

"You run for the Cheetahs when you're a kid, then you grow up and go play for Chandler," young Brett Hundley says. "It's a thing."

Perkins joined Hundley on the varsity as a sophomore — as a defensive back. Running back, though, was in his DNA.

Don Perkins, his uncle, was a Dallas Cowboys' fullback. Don was the NFL's rookie of the year in 1961 and played in six Pro Bowl games. Bruce Perkins played with Tampa Bay and Indianapolis in the NFL.

"My dad was a running back, so I'm a running back," Paul Perkins says. "He likes pancakes, so I like pancakes. It's like that."

Perkins joined the family business as a junior, when an injury left a hole in Chandler's backfield. He gained 270 yards in six games. Hundley led the team with 856 yards rushing.

Perkins joked that had he moved earlier, Hundley "wouldn't have had all those yards."

The next year, Perkins gained 1,297 yards and scored 20 touchdowns.

Hundley was quarterback-in-waiting at UCLA by then. His father made sure Rick Neuheisel, then UCLA's coach, had Perkins' highlight tape.

"I gave it to him on a Saturday and they offered Paul a scholarship on Monday," the elder Hundley says.

A Chandler connection was established.

"Yeah, they're our triple-A team," Mazzone jokes.

It may be more than a gag.

Chandler receiver Dionte Sykes has committed to UCLA. Quarterback Bryce Perkins, Paul's brother, has been offered a scholarship by UCLA.

"Brett started it," Paul Perkins says. "Chandler is a close community. Every time I go back, people say, 'Great job,' and, 'Say hi to Brett.'"

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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