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UCLA linebacker Myles Jack leaves school to prepare for NFL draft

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, center, plays against Virginia at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 5.

UCLA linebacker Myles Jack, center, plays against Virginia at the Rose Bowl on Sept. 5.

(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Myles Jack, UCLA’s multi-skilled linebacker, has withdrawn from school and will enter the NFL draft.

Jack, a junior, will return to Bellevue, Wash., where he grew up, to prepare for the draft and rehabilitate his knee. Jack suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice two weeks ago.

“He’s taking his chips and is shoving them in the middle,” Coach Jim Mora said Tuesday. “We hope that he draws a good hand.”

Jack met with Mora on Sunday night to inform him of the decision. Prior to the injury, Jack was considered one of the top linebackers in the nation.

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The move is a risky one, according to Mora, who spent 25 years as a coach in the NFL.

“I think he is a tremendous football player and tremendous athlete, but I think it is very risky to do this. Having been on that side, there is going to be a lot speculation on exactly what he is and where he fits.”

Jack was a unique linebacker the last two seasons. He had the size and strength to battle offensive linemen and the speed to cover receivers.

Jack also spent some time as a running back, scoring 11 touchdowns. This season, he was also used on kickoff returns.

UCLA had used him to as a nickel back this season.

Jack, however, played only three games this season.

“As I told Myles on Sunday, NFL teams are very, very conservative,” Mora said. “If there is any question whatsoever, they are going to pass on you in a heartbeat. They’re going to take the sure thing. I explained that to them, but he felt like they had already made their decision.”

Jack carried a $5-million insurance policy to protect him against injury. His rehabilitation is expected to take four to six months.

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On Monday, UCLA linebacker Deon Hollins said, “you don’t replace a guy like Myles,” and went on to call him the best player in the nation.

What a friend says means a lot. What foe says can mean even more.

Across town, USC Coach Steve Sarkisian spoke glowingly of Jack on Tuesday. As Washington’s coach, Sarkisian had recruited Jack and had grown close to his family.

“Myles has a very high football IQ,” Sarkisian said. “That’s what gave him the ability play defense, go over to running, return kickoffs. He was a jack of all trades. He was a big, physical guy, with great hand-eye coordination. But it is his football IQ that allows him to play fast.”

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Jack’s combination of power and speed had many coaches at his doorstep when he was a senior at Bellevue High. Arizona State Coach Todd Graham was among many who recruited him.

“He was arguably one of the most dynamic players in the nation the last few years,” Graham said. “I’m impressed with anyone who plays linebacker the way he played linebacker and then goes over and plays tailback. He was just a phenomenal player.”

Jack burst into the national spotlight as a freshman in 2013. He was already getting noticed for his play at linebacker, but his move to tailback as a two-way player made national news.

He gained 120 yards rushing and scored one touchdown in his debut as running back against Arizona. A week later, he scored four touchdowns against Washington.

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“He did about everything for them,” Graham said. “He was explosive and powerful and had a speed. It made him a hard guy to block. He is pretty special.”


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