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Brett Hundley, with work to do, will return to UCLA for junior season

Quarterback decides to pass up for at least one more year a shot at the NFL, saying there's work left to do with the Bruins. The school is already promoting him as a Heisman Trophy candidate.

January 06, 2014|By Chris Foster
  • Brett Hundley breaks into the clear on a 12-yard touchdown run against USC in a 35-14 victory.
Brett Hundley breaks into the clear on a 12-yard touchdown run against USC… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )

UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley sat and stared into the bright lights that hid the crowd of teammates and athletic department personnel present to root him on.

"All the anticipation," Hundley said, smiling.

It will only build from here.

Hundley made it official Monday, announcing at a news conference that he would return for his junior season at UCLA.

Westwood has officially entered a candidate in the 2014 Heisman Trophy race.

There are many reasons Hundley said he decided to stay at UCLA rather than go to the NFL. He says he wants a college degree. There are also team goals, including a Pac-12 Conference championship and a place in a big bowl game or college football's new four-team playoff.

"Those are things UCLA has not done in a long time," he said.

It has been even longer since a UCLA player won the Heisman Trophy. Hundley hopes to provide a bookend for Gary Beban's 1967 trophy, which sits in the UCLA Hall of Fame.

"When you're a little kid you dream about it, and now you are so close to actually getting it," Hundley said. "You can't leave that dream. So to stay and chase it next year was something I wanted to do."

Hundley's announcement had all the trimmings that come with a campaign. It was streamed live over the football program's website and plenty of staff members were there to provide applause. Moments after it ended, the hashtag "#Hundley4Heisman" was up on the website.

These types of campaigns have been routine across town. USC has returned as many Heisman trophies as UCLA has won.

UCLA's last Heisman campaign was for Cade McNown in 1998. It included billboards in the Los Angeles area. McNown finished third.

This time, promotions will go national, with a strong presence on the East Coast.

"I believe Brett will be on everyone's list for prominent quarterbacks going into the season," Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said. "We have to foster that and promote him as we go through the year."

Coach Jim Mora was stumping for Hundley on his Twitter account as soon as the news conference ended.

"Every time he's mentioned out there, I want it to be 'Heisman Trophy candidate Brett Hundley,' " Mora said. " 'Brett Heisman.' It would be great for our brand, great for our program, great for our university."

And great for Hundley.

"That's what I do in my spare time, think about stuff that I'm so close to achieving," Hundley said.

The campaign would help, but ultimately "he has to go out and play well and we have to win games," Mora said.

Hundley's 6,813 yards passing rank him fourth on UCLA's all-time list. His 53 touchdown passes are third. A Pac-12 title and maybe a shot at a national championship would be hard to ignore.

Hundley mulled the decision to come back in the days after his electrifying performance in UCLA's 42-12 victory over Virginia Tech in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. At one point, he said, "you could toss a coin."

After discussions with his family and friends, including former UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin, Hundley decided to put off declaring for the NFL draft one year. He said he will take out an insurance policy to protect his earning potential.

Hundley said his NFL draft evaluation had him going anywhere from the first to the fourth round. He was certain he would be picked in the first round. In the end, the lure of more success in college was too strong. The Bruins' finished with a 10-3 record and have 17 starters returning for the 2014 season.

"The stars are aligned for something really special," Hundley said. "It's not going to be something that you will forget. It will be something to look back on and say, 'I was a part of that team.' "

chris.foster@latimes.com

Twitter: @cfosterlatimes

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