INDIANAPOLIS — The folks at Penn State might take issue with it, but in the past few years, UCLA has been making a claim to be “Linebacker U.”
First came UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr, a first-round pick of the Vikings in 2014. Last year, it was middle linebacker and Barr’s roommate in college Eric Kendricks, whom the Vikings took in the second round.
Now comes versatile playmaker Myles Jack, who should be a top-10 pick even though he won’t work out at the combine due to a knee injury that ended his Bruins career early. He hopes to be ready for his pro day.
So, Myles, what is in the water there inside the UCLA linebacker room?
“It’s just the culture. Anthony was kind of the beginning, and then I was kind of in awe of them. When I first stepped on campus I wanted to be just like them. When Anthony left it was Eric,” said Jack, who moonlighted as a running back for UCLA. “I just kind of followed Eric, listened to everything he said, watched how serious he took the game, and it’s paid off. Hopefully the next wave of guys out of UCLA will follow that same suit.”
Jack raved about Barr’s competitiveness, saying that he “brought that same motor every single play” whether the Bruins were winning or losing. He said he learned about the importance of preparation from Kendricks
“[The coach] would ask, ‘In two-by-two formations, what are the three plays they will run?’ And Eric would know it on the spot,” Jack said.
Barr and Kendricks are both impressive athletes, but Jack might top them. He said NFL teams have talked to him about playing all three linebacker positions in 4-3 fronts and both inside spots in the 3-4. He even said that some teams discussed the possibility of playing him at safety.
It is not yet known if the Vikings have talked to him. He is expected to be long gone by the time they are on the clock at No. 23, and with Barr and Kendricks in purple, they don’t exactly need another linebacker.
But still, for a brief moment yesterday Jack allowed himself to ponder a possible UCLA reunion with Barr and Kendricks in Minnesota.
“That would be awesome. That would be really cool,” Jack said.