Run for the Bruins or run for the money?
For months, UCLA tailback Karim Abdul-Jabbar wavered between staying in school and giving up his final year of eligibility to make himself available for the NFL draft.
The deciding moment came Tuesday night at a team meeting, the first under the Bruins' new coach, Bob Toledo.
Abdul-Jabbar, about 19 hours away from the NFL deadline for declaring his intentions, decided to attend the meeting, a positive sign for those hoping he would return. Bouncing his 3-year-old son, Abdul, on his knee while looking around at his collegiate teammates paying rapt attention to their new leader, Abdul-Jabbar felt old.
"I just felt out of place," he said. "It was my time to go."
Wednesday, Abdul-Jabbar made it official. With projections showing him going anywhere from the first to the third round in the April draft, Abdul-Jabbar, coming off the greatest single-season rushing performance in UCLA history, announced, with more than a trace of sadness in his voice, that his Bruin career is over.
Several weeks ago, that had seemed a foregone conclusion.
His NFL stock didn't figure to grow. Not after a season in which he rushed for 1,571 yards, including three consecutive games above 200 yards. Not with four-fifths of the starting offensive line leaving. Not with his knees, both of which have been operated on, at full strength.
So why hesitate? He didn't, until last Thursday when Toledo was promoted from offensive coordinator to the head job, made vacant by the retirement of Terry Donahue.
"I thought it would be some guy I didn't know," Abdul-Jabbar said. "When [Toledo got the job], it really twisted me up."
So the agonizing resumed. Abdul-Jabbar's mother, Ava Shah, wanted him to go. His father, Naim Shah, wanted him to stay.
"Nobody was making me feel any pull," Abdul-Jabbar said. "My parents were not making me feel they wanted me to come out because they needed the money or anything. That was a real blessing. They told me they wanted me to do what I wanted to do. It is rare for people not to be selfish."
While there are questions about how Abdul-Jabbar's size (5 feet 10 3/4, 198 pounds) and speed will affect his position in the draft, Toledo has no doubts.
"He can catch the ball," he said. "And he has a great work ethic."
Toledo has offered the job of offensive coordinator to Al Borges, who currently holds that position at Oregon. He is expected to decide within the next day or two. Toledo served in that role previously. . . . Ryan Fien, UCLA's starting quarterback at the beginning of the season, is transferring to Idaho.
College Football Notes
Four other players said they would make themselves available for the draft: Ohio State wide receiver Terry Glenn, Oklahoma fullback Jerald Moore, Auburn offensive tackle Willie Anderson and Penn State receiver Freddie Scott. . . . All-American defensive end Cornell Brown said he will return to Virginia Tech and running back George Jones will return to San Diego State.