UCLA’s Demetric Felton Jr. is headed to the NFL, just like he always said he would
One day, the 7-year-old who slept with his football had something he wanted to tell his father. Without a shred of hesitation, the boy announced that he would play running back in college and go on to the NFL.
Tempering expectations without crushing his son’s dream, the father told his son to play Pop Warner first and maybe make a high school team before thinking about college or the NFL.
Sure thing, Dad.
Having completed prolific Pop Warner, high school and college careers, Demetric Felton Jr. took another step toward making good on his boyhood pledge Sunday.
The UCLA redshirt senior running back announced on social media that he was headed for the NFL, forgoing the additional season of college eligibility that the NCAA granted every player before this season.
“After much thought, prayer, and talking with my parents, I feel it’s time to say my goodbyes and start to prepare for the Senior Bowl and the NFL combine,” Felton wrote in a Twitter message. “Playing in the NFL has been a dream of mine since I was 7 years old. I look forward to taking the next steps in fulfilling that lifelong dream.”
UCLA was resilient in a 48-47 double-overtime loss to Stanford, but the Bruins finished under .500 for a third straight season under coach Chip Kelly.
Felton provided a tipoff that his college career was over Saturday at the Rose Bowl when he and defensive lineman Osa Odighizuwa were the only seniors who elected to take part in a farewell ceremony before the Bruins’ 48-47 loss to Stanford in double overtime.
Felton did not play because of an unspecified injury, ending his season as the fourth-leading rusher in the Pac-12 Conference with 111.3 yards per game and five touchdowns. He also caught 22 passes for 159 yards and three touchdowns to go with his kickoff-return duties, making him one of the nation’s most versatile players.
Felton’s departure leaves a considerable hole that the Bruins might be able to plug with their current roster should graduate transfer Brittain Brown decide to return given an extra season of eligibility. Brown ran for a career-high 219 yards in 29 carries Saturday against Stanford, repeatedly showing an ability to shed defenders and keep his legs moving after contact.
Barring any transfers, UCLA will return running backs Kazmeir Allen, Keegan Jones and Martell Irby. The team also has signed highly coveted high school prospect Deshun Murrell while remaining in the running for San Diego Morse High’s Byron Cardwell, who is expected to announce his college decision in late January.
Widely considered undersized for an every-down back at 5 feet 10 and 200 pounds, Felton showed that he could handle a heavy workload by running the ball 34 times against Oregon and 32 times against Arizona, gaining a career-high 206 yards and a touchdown against the Wildcats.
Along the way, Felton displayed the slipperiness in eluding defenders that has made him a pro prospect while continuing to shush the doubters.
“Everybody always told him what he couldn’t do,” Felton’s father, also named Demetric, said earlier this month. “They said he couldn’t run back in high school, he did that. He couldn’t play running back in Pop Warner, he did that. He couldn’t do that in college, he’s done it.”
Robbie Robinson, who coached Felton at Great Oak High in Temecula and has watched six of his former players go on to the NFL, said Felton possessed the best field vision of anyone he had ever coached and envisioned him succeeding at the next level.
“He would be a pretty fun chess piece to be able to play with if I was an NFL offensive coordinator with what you can do with him,” Robinson said. “Some of these teams that are super creative with backs out of the backfield and using kind of running back-type slot receivers, I would think that one of those types of teams would have a lot of fun with him.”
Felton’s father always told his son that preparation plus opportunity equaled destiny and to be ready when his chance came. His next one could be only a few months away, a boy realizing his NFL dream.
UCLA honors Demetric Felton Jr. and Osa Odighizuwa, the only two players who will not be eligible to return in 2021, before loss to Stanford.
“Maybe he can get one team to believe in him and take a chance on him,” Felton Sr. said, “and maybe they will call his name on draft day.”
Coach Chip Kelly said the Bruins were scheduled to return to campus in January to begin training for the 2021 season but acknowledged those plans could change if the pandemic continued to worsen. “We’ll have to be really flexible because there are a lot of problems with COVID,” Kelly said. “I know there is a vaccine, but I don’t know when that is going to get to regular people. If we get shut down, then we have to plan accordingly.”
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