UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet is drafted by Seattle, ready for ‘whatever it takes’

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet carries the ball during a win over Utah.
UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet carries the ball during a win over Utah on Oct. 8. Charbonnet was selected 52nd overall in the NFL draft by the Seattle Seahawks.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Zach Charbonnet is a man of few words and many yards. So it won’t surprise people who know the running back from UCLA that he didn’t give a long-winded dissertation on what it will be like to play for a former USC icon in Pete Carroll.

“Whatever it takes,” Charbonnet said Friday in his meet-the-media conference call as the newest member of the Seattle Seahawks.

That’s Charbonnet, straightforward and to the point, precisely the reason he seldom was caught behind the line of scrimmage for the Bruins. He rushed for 1,359 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, convincing the Seahawks to make him the 52nd overall pick in the second round.


There’s opportunity in Seattle, where Kenneth Walker III is coming off his rookie season and DeeJay Dallas is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Charbonnet, who was at home in Thousand Oaks when he was drafted, was the third running back selected, behind first-round picks Bijan Robinson of Texas (No. 8 to Atlanta) and Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs (No. 12 to Detroit).

On Day 2 of the NFL draft, the Chargers addressed the defense by selecting USC edge rusher Tuli Tuipulotu and Crenshaw High’s Daiyan Henley (Washington State).

April 28, 2023

Getting the call was unforgettable.

“Honestly, I was just excited to be with my family,” said Charbonnet, who attended Oaks Christian in Westlake Village and began his college career at Michigan. “It’s just a great moment for us. In the draft, you never really know where you are going, so I didn’t know if I was going to Seattle or somewhere else, but I am just excited for this opportunity.”

He was bracketed by players from USC, with receiver Jordan Addison going 23rd to Minnesota, and the Chargers using the No. 54 pick on edge rusher Tuli Tuipulotu.

Addison will have a college teammate with the Vikings: cornerback Mekhi Blackmon, selected in the third round with the 102nd and final pick.

USC cornerback Mekhi Blackmon warms up during practice April 5, 2022, in Los Angeles.
USC cornerback Mekhi Blackmon was selected in the third round by the Minnesota Vikings with the 102nd and final pick.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The draft concludes Saturday with Rounds 4 through 7, and Chicago getting the first pick when the proceedings resume.

The second day of the draft began with a full-circle selection, Pittsburgh drafting Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. His father was a five-time All-Pro linebacker for the Steelers.

The Rams dealt with offensive line issues by drafting TCU’s Steve Avila in the second round. In Round 3, they picked two players to fortify their defensive front.

April 28, 2023

Alan Faneca, a Hall of Fame guard for the Steelers, announced the selection of Porter Jr. and tweeted: “What an incredible honor to announce your friend’s son getting drafted!! It means the world to me.”

ESPN Stats & Info noted it was the second time in this draft that a player was drafted by the same team that selected his father. The other was Ohio State tackle Paris Johnson Jr., selected sixth by the Arizona Cardinals, the same franchise that drafted his father in 1999.

With the second pick Friday, the Tennessee Titans traded up and stopped the slide of Kentucky quarterback Will Levis, who anticipated being a first-round pick but languished in the green room throughout Thursday night. Unlike Porter, who also attended the draft, Levis left town and wasn’t on hand to put on his new cap and jersey.

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis arrives on the red carpet before the first round of the NFL draft Thursday.
Kentucky quarterback Will Levis left Kansas City, Mo., when he was not selected in the first round of the NFL draft. Tennessee chose him in the second round.
(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

“I stayed positive, and I knew what was meant to be, was going to happen,” said Levis, the heir apparent to Ryan Tannehill. “When I saw [the Titans] traded up for me, that alone was telling me that they wanted me, they wanted this to happen. I am really, really excited and thankful for the opportunity.”

Three quarterbacks went in the first four selections: Alabama’s Bryce Young (No. 1 to Carolina), Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud (No. 2 to Houston) and Florida’s Anthony Richardson (No. 4 to Indianapolis).

After Levis, the next quarterback off the board was Hendon Hooker, who went to Detroit at No.68 in the third round. He is the highest-drafted Tennessee quarterback since Peyton Manning went No.1 in 1998.

It was the highest the Lions had taken a quarterback since making Matthew Stafford the draft’s top pick in 2009. And in taking Gibbs a day earlier, it was the highest the Lions had selected a running back since drafting Barry Sanders third in 1989.

Charbonnet is the highest-drafted UCLA player since quarterback Josh Rosen and tackle Kolton Miller went in the first round in 2018.

The former Bruins running back has a touching story and draws inspiration from his family, and especially his younger sister, Bella, who has special needs.


UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet shares a special bond with his sister, Bella, who has special needs. She helped inspire him to transfer from Michigan to UCLA.

Oct. 19, 2022

That was a big reason he transferred from Michigan to UCLA, to return to Southern California.

“It was a really big part,” he said last season. “I wanted to be closer to family, especially my second time around.”

Now, a move to the Pacific Northwest.

“My main focus all of the time is to be the hardest worker in the building,” he said. “That’s something they are going to get. They are going to get someone that is physical as well and like you said, being able to run the ball and catch the ball out of the backfield. That’s another type of person they are going to get too, but definitely my mentality is what they are going to get.”