Of all the swarms at Thursday’s Pac-12 Media Day, none were bigger than the one around UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley. He took a constant stream of questions about his leadership and growth, about how he was going to handle the national spotlight and the pressure of being one of the nation’s best dual-threat quarterbacks.
Hundley is confident in his leadership and his ability to handle the pressure, and a big reason for that is the influence of a Bruin no longer playing football — former running back Johnathan Franklin.
Before Franklin graduated to the NFL in 2013, he and Hundley were roommates. According to the star quarterback, that was as valuable as anything he’s gone through in his three years as a Bruin.
“It’s just understanding what he did, how he did it and how he carried himself, you sort of just learn from that,” Hundley said. “Being around him a lot when he was here was huge for my development, and obviously him being like a big brother to me has meant a lot to me. Just learning and being around him … just to be around that all the time, 24/7 was special for me.”
In Franklin’s senior year at UCLA in 2012, he ran for 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging more than six yards per carry. He was one of the best tailbacks in the country, but according to Hundley, you would have never known it.
Franklin was a 2013 fourth-round pick of the Green Bay Packers, but his rookie season ended early after he suffered a neck injury in November. This summer, news broke that it wasn’t just Franklin’s season that ended early, but his career, at just 24 years old.
“He understands everything happens for a reason, that there will be a better path for him,” Hundley said. “Just the way he looks at life, understanding how powerful the mind is and getting a feel for certain things. Knowing that maybe the NFL didn’t work out the way he wanted it to, but knowing that there is so much better out there waiting for him. He’ll never be down, you’ll never see his head down. He’s always smiling.”
This is Hundley’s third season as UCLA’s starting quarterback. He’s tallied a touchdown in each of his 27 games at UCLA, and in 2013, he passed for more than 3,000 yards and ran for more than 700.
But if Hundley has a bad play, or game, this season, he has a friend who can keep it all in perspective. For someone facing as much pressure as he is, keeping things in perspective might be more important than anything.
“Johnathan’s helped me a lot as far as personal circumstances or certain things like that,” Hundley said. “When you might think you have a bad time, you can look at a person like Johnathan Franklin and understand that not everything is as bad as you think it is.”