Former Bruin Myles Jack has designs on an NFL career

Myles Jack, who is still recovering from a season-ending injury last fall, will participate in the bench press and interviews at the NFL combine.

Myles Jack, who is still recovering from a season-ending injury last fall, will participate in the bench press and interviews at the NFL combine.

(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Before showing off his fancy footwork to NFL scouts, Myles Jack gave a sneak peek at another of his talents.

His fancy footwear.

As the only player at the scouting combine that Under Armour has signed to a shoe and apparel deal, Jack — who played linebacker and running back at UCLA — got to flex his creative muscle this week. The company asked him to design his own shoes, ones he plans to wear when he works out for scouts at his pro day next month.

“Let me show them to you,” Jack said, producing his cellphone for a reporter Friday and swiping through his photos. The shoes are white high-tops with textured skin and a blue-and-yellow color scheme that looks spray-painted on in a graffiti style. Painted on one heel is a playing card that reads “Jack of all Trades” with his jersey No. 30. On the other heel is a similar card reading “The Jack Family” with the names of his mother, LaSonjia, and brother, Jahlen, underneath.


“I told them what I wanted and they were like, boom, and literally, mid-conversation, they turned around and started working on it,” said Jack, 20, who was handed a prototype of the shoes less than two hours after he described his vision for them. They are for him, not for mass production and sale.

Jack will be participating only in the bench press and in team interviews at the scouting combine this weekend. He is recovering from a right knee injury he suffered just three games into his junior season, a torn meniscus that wound up ending his college career. The injury happened at a Sept. 22 practice, and led to surgery that required four to six months of recovery time.

Because the injury caused him to miss classes, Jack said, and because he wanted to turn his entire attention to rehabbing for the pros, he decided to drop out of school.

“It was definitely difficult,” he said of the choice. “Being injured at that point, we were 3-0 in the season, our goal was to win a Pac-12 title, win the South, and contend for a national title.… At the end of the day, I just kind of decided being behind in school, being behind physically and everything, I felt like the best decision for me was to pull out of school and concentrate on getting better.”

At that Jack has succeeded. His knee was torqued, pulled and prodded by combine medical evaluators Friday, and he said everything was fine. He plans to work out for scouts at the combine, and expects to be at full speed for scouts at UCLA’s pro day on campus March 15.

It’s too soon to tell how early he could be drafted, but the consensus is that Jack is a top-10 pick, an elite defensive talent who showed his versatility and love of the game when he dabbled so effectively at running back.

Jack won both the Pac-12’s offensive and defensive freshman-of-the-year awards in 2013, when he had 75 tackles, two interceptions, and seven rushing touchdowns. As a sophomore, he had 88 tackles — eight for a loss — and three more rushing touchdowns. He had 15 tackles and an interception in his abbreviated junior season.

“Myles is a freak of an athlete,” said former UCLA defensive tackle Kenny Clark, also working out at the combine this week. “He could shut down a whole side of the field. Whoever he’s lined up on, he’s as athletic as that guy.… Quarterbacks didn’t want to attack him. He didn’t have many interceptions because they didn’t want to throw toward him.”

The 6-foot-1, 245-pound Jack has heard from various NFL teams who envision him as a fit at all three linebacker spots, or even at safety. “I see myself as a football player,” he said. “I want the teams to decide for themselves. I feel like I can play any position.”

Even though the Bruins used him all over the field, Jack said, “I expect to be at a specific position. I’m sure some teams may want to move me around. They may see my skill set as being on the ball, off the ball, doing a bunch of different things. But I’m definitely looking forward to playing just one position and really honing my skills on that.”

Jack said he wouldn’t mind being a safety in the mold of Seattle’s Kam Chancellor, among his favorite NFL players. He kept close tabs on Chancellor in his early years with the Seahawks, back when Jack played at neighboring Bellevue High. Once, the two had a chance meeting.

“He probably doesn’t remember, but I met him at a Jack in the Box,” Jack said. “It was probably 10 at night on a Friday. He came in and we took a picture with him.”

Jack was ordering his typical fare at the time — 99-cent tacos — and his diet didn’t change much during his UCLA days.

“He was eating In-N-Out Burgers every day, Chick-fil-A — everybody eats like that at school,” said his agent, John Thornton. “But when you’re going through rehab, you’ve got to change your body.”

So Jack, who did his rehabilitation at the Fischer Institute in Phoenix, changed his diet and spent long hours rebuilding the strength and flexibility in his knee. He considers invaluable the lessons he learned from the NFL-bound UCLA linebackers who came before him: Anthony Barr, a first-round pick by Minnesota in 2014, and Eric Kendricks, taken in the second round by the Vikings last year.

“Anthony, he was just a gamer,” Jack said. “He’d come out and no matter whether we were losing or winning he just brought that same motor every single play. And then with Eric, I really learned that preparation aspect.… I really picked that up from him, him studying and really paying attention to film, instead of just watching guys run the ball, watching guys score touchdowns. He’s looking at linemen. He’s looking at what they’re running in third-and-one situations and stuff like that.”

Jack said his job now is to go out and “erase” any doubts scouts might have about him.

“I don’t have any issues, any character flaws, I haven’t done anything bad,” he said. “Really, the medical question is the only question people have, and I feel like I can erase all that on my pro day.”

Thornton said he’s heard a familiar refrain from a lot of teams this week — “You won’t be there when we’re drafting” — but added, “We’re going to be there for somebody.”

And Jack will be ready to put his best high-top forward.

Twitter: @LATimesfarmer