Joshua Kelley returning to UCLA for 2019, won’t declare for NFL draft

UCLA running Joshua Kelley scores a 55-yard touchdown in front of USC defensive back Ajene Harris in the 4th quarter at the Rose Bowl Saturday, Oct. 17, 2017.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

UCLA is getting its top rusher back for 2019.

Tailback Joshua Kelley will return for one final college season instead of entering his name into the NFL draft, his mom, Jacqueline, said Monday.

A transfer from UC Davis, Kelley was UCLA’s breakthrough star last season and a model of perseverance. After sitting out the 2017 season as a walk-on because of transfer rules, Kelley won a scholarship and ran for 1,243 yards last season despite struggling over the first two games and getting no carries in the third game, a loss to Fresno State.

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By the time his season was over, Kelley had logged six 100-yard rushing games and the 10th-most rushing yards in a season in school history. His 289-yard effort against the USC was the most in the rivalry game by a running back from either team.

Kelley’s 113 rushing yards per game ranked fourth in the Pac-12 Conference and eighth in major college football. He rushed for at least one touchdown in each of the last eight games of the season. He was a first team All-Pac-12 selection by the Associated Press and ESPN and won the Henry R. Sanders Award as the team’s most valuable player.

Kelley will be a redshirt senior in 2019.