UCLA

Myles Jack is the star, but there are plenty of other attractions at UCLA's pro day for NFL prospects

Myles Jack returned Tuesday to the UCLA practice field. It wasn't to resume his college career, but to take another step toward his dream of playing linebacker in the NFL.

Still, he's approaching his next chapter with patience. He didn't run the 40-yard dash on his surgically repaired knee — he plans to do that for scouts in a special workout April 1 — but did participate in the vertical jump, broad jump and various position drills.

Jack, widely projected to be a top-10 pick in next month's draft, said he feels about 80% after spending half a year recovering from the torn meniscus in his right knee that he suffered during a Sept. 22 practice, just three games into his junior season.

"It was important for me to come out, show face, move around a little bit just to show people it wasn't an urban myth or anything," said Jack, who participated only in the bench press and team interviews at the scouting combine last month. "I'm really here, I can move around."

Jack, who at 243 was about five pounds heavier than his college playing weight, was reasonably pleased with his 40-inch vertical jump and 10-foot-4 broad jump, though he said that when in top shape he's capable of a 43 vertical and 10-10 broad jump. Doctors cleared him on Jan. 22 to run in a straight line, and last week to run laterally. He said he still needs to get in football shape, and he expects to run the 40 in the 4.5-4.6-second range in a couple of weeks.

The San Diego Chargers, who have the third overall pick and no longer have All-Pro safety Eric Weddle, put Jack through some defensive back drills, asking him to backpedal and change directions on the fly. It wasn't perfect; he dropped a ball he should have intercepted.

"I felt good," Jack said. "That's really the first time I've done that since I got injured. It's good to know where I'm at. I've got a lot of work to do, but I can for sure do all those drills. I think I have a workout with them at some point, so I'll clean all that up."

In recent years, UCLA's pro day often has been little more than the undercard to the main attraction at USC. That wasn't the case Monday, as representatives from all 32 teams showed up in Westwood to see Jack and a host of other prospects. The official count was 132 scouts, coaches and front-office executives, including one head coach, Cleveland's Hue Jackson, and seven general managers — including those from all four California teams: Les Snead of the Rams, San Diego's Tom Telesco, San Francisco's Trent Baalke and Oakland's Reggie McKenzie.

"I think there's up to 11 guys here who potentially could get drafted," said Bruins Coach Jim Mora, who conceded he got goose bumps watching his former players work out for NFL teams. "Nothing's ever promised, but the potential is there."

By Mora's count, those players are linebackers Jack and Aaron Wallace; defensive tackle Kenny Clark; receivers Jordan Payton, Devin Fuller and Thomas Duarte; running back Paul Perkins; offensive linemen Caleb Benenoch, Alex Redmond and Jake Brendel; and kicker Ka'imi Fairbairn.

Mora, who coached in the NFL for more than two decades and said he's attended at least 100 pro days, made special note of showings by Payton and Fuller.

"Jordan ran a 4.47," he said. "What I heard from a lot of NFL people was he was tremendous in the interviews, that his character really stood out."

Mora said Fuller ran the 40 in 4.44 seconds, although at least one scout clocked him at 4.39 — particularly impressive considering this is a painfully slow draft class of receivers.

One team scout, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the 6-foot-3, 225-pound Duarte caught the ball well and should make a successful transition to tight end in the NFL, and that — while Benenoch is considered the school's top offensive line prospect — guard Redmond turned heads with his aggressiveness and toughness.

Clark struggled with slipping during the three-cone drill, but was in good shape and should be selected somewhere in the late-first/early-second-round range.

Jack, who doubled as a running back in college, was clearly the marquee attraction, even though he didn't run. His mother, LaSonjia, was there to cheer him on, wearing her No. 30 Bruins jersey.

For her, the experience brought back a flood of memories, including those from September when she rushed to L.A. as soon as she heard her son had suffered the knee injury. She stayed with him in his apartment during his rehab, prepared three meals a day for him, and shuttled him everywhere he needed to go.

"I treated him like a baby, basically," she said. "I call him Baby Bear, anyway. He's pretty big, and he had to lean on me to go places. He gave me food demands: 'I need breakfast. I need the special salmon you make. I need tacos.' I went right to the grocery store and bought all his favorite things."

Myles has been obsessed with the draft ever since he was a young kid, his mom said, and had an uncommon infatuation with the game.

"He's the only kid who at 7 asked, 'Can I get my game film?'" she said. "After every game in Pop Warner, he'd review it. I have a suitcase of all those DVDs at home, from Pop Warner through high school. I was the first mom in the neighborhood who had a DVD player in her car, and they weren't watching cartoons back there. Always game film."

As the draft approaches, this much is obvious: Jack has moved into the driver's seat.

sam.farmer@latimes.com

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on March 16, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Time for scouts to get to know Jack - Linebacker is the star but by no means the only attraction at UCLA's pro day." — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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