Former walk-on Abbott among six captains

August, 25, 2012
8/25/12
4:15
PM PT
LOS ANGELES -- For Andrew Abbott, the announcement was both rewarding and humbling.

Abbott, a senior safety, is one of six team captains for UCLA this year, getting elected by a vote of his teammates earlier this week. Running back Johnathan Franklin, offensive lineman Xavier Su'a-Filo, linebacker Damien Holmes, punter Jeff Locke and fullback David Allen are the others.

For Abbott to be among that group is a reminder of where he came from, he said, because nobody ever thought he would play Division I football, let alone ascend to the role of captain at a major program.

He was an undersized receiver/defensive back coming out of Mater Dei High is Santa Ana and didn't get any scholarship offers. He went to UCLA as a walk-on and earned a scholarship after two years. He became a part-time starter in 2010 and was among the most valuable defensive players on the team last season when he led the team with four interceptions.

"It's an honor," Abbott said. "To go from where I’ve come from--being a no-rep guy who wasn’t even recruited out of high school, to be the captain of a top-notch university like this is big."

Abbott emerged as a leader on the defense last season with his play and was named honorable mention all-Pac-12. His interception with 2:01 to play sealed a 28-25 victory over Washington State and his two interceptions against Colorado helped key the victory that made UCLA bowl eligible.

But he had his biggest impact off the field, when he became a vocal leader after embarrassing losses against Texas, Stanford and Arizona and implored the team to be satisfied after key victories against Oregon State, Washington State and Arizona State.

"Leadership is something I wanted to come natural, not something I wanted to force," Abbott said. "I think I have a good grasp of what needs to be done to win around here and I just want to express that to younger guys and that just reflects as leadership. I didn’t want to go out of my way, I just wanted to be myself and just let my play and my actions speak for themselves, but being an older guy now, you have to do what you have to do to get guys following you."

Coach Jim Mora said the team voted on captains during their trip to the Rose Bowl on Thursday. He had them select two players from offense, two from defense and two from special teams.

Franklin will reprise his role as captain from last season and is the only returning captain. Su'a-Filo was elected in his first season back from a two-year Mormon mission. Holmes, who is being asked to fill the shoes of medically retired Patrick Larimore at linebacker, is also filling his shoes as captain.

Locke is among the top punters in the nation and Allen is also a key special teams player as well as the starting fullback. The distinctions carry more weight because the team voted, Holmes said.

"It definitely has more meaning because there is that respect there," he said. "Just because guys didn’t get voted captain doesn’t mean they can’t lead. I think we have a lot of guys that lead in different ways. We have vocal leaders and guys who lead by example, but to get that recognition is nice."

Notes: Freshman defensive lineman Ellis McCarthy, one of the gems of UCLA's recruiting class, participated in practice for the first time Saturday. The team was not in pads, but McCarthy (6-5, 330) declared himself fully recovered from knee surgery to repair a meniscus. ... Offensive linemen Jeff Baca, Greg Capella and Alberto Cid all recently returned from concussions, are still trying to prove they are ready to play after missing more than two weeks of camp.

Peter Yoon

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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