INDIANAPOLIS – Myles Jack felt he had to leave UCLA.
A day before a torn lateral meniscus ended his junior season in practice on Sept. 22, the first quarter of school began at UCLA. Jack, a junior, was set to begin taking upper-level classes in his major, anthropology. But nearly instantly after Jack’s injury, which was followed by surgery to repair his right knee, he fell behind in school.
Jack said within the first two weeks after the injury – also the first two weeks of school – he was behind six papers, including five in his major.
He was faced with a choice. Does he stay in school and try to catch up? Or does he cut his losses and focus on his football future?
“It’s a tough decision,” Mack said. “I just decided to put that on ice. Definitely going to finish my degree and everything, but decided to go.
“Having surgery, you’re down for like a week and a half, you can’t move around. I couldn’t come back. I couldn’t play this season. I couldn’t contribute. I just had to weigh all that and just decide, ‘You know what? Shoot for my dream. This is what I’ve always wanted to do. This is my dream.’ I just had to go for it.”
Weighing on Jack was what would be waiting for him at UCLA in 2016.
Quarterback Josh Rosen would be returning. So would 10 starters on defense and nine on offense.
Jack was torn.
“We had high expectations, and for me to get injured, I had to realize, ‘Hey, I can’t play anymore.’ It was tough leaving my brothers and my teammates and everything. That was the hardest part, guys that I had grinded with, guys that I had came in the class of ‘13 with. It was tough because I had grown up with those guys.”
But, after taking a deeper look at his options, the answer was obvious to Jack, especially when he delved into his rehab.
Had Jack stayed in school, his rehab would’ve been overseen by the UCLA medical and athletic training staffs – along with the ailments and injuries of every other UCLA student-athlete. He wanted personalized attention.
After discussing the idea of leaving school with his mother, La Sonjia, Jack walked into UCLA coach Jim Mora’s office on Oct. 4, a day after UCLA had lost to Arizona State, and informed Mora of his decision. Jack would declare for the NFL draft. During that meeting, Mora played devil’s advocate, Jack said. He laid out the pros and cons, told him the good and the bad of leaving.
But everything Mora later said publicly in the media, including about how it was “very risky” to leave school, Jack had heard in that meeting.
“We had felt that I had not done everything at UCLA but we had felt I had done adequate enough to move on to the next level,” Jack said.
“It was definitely tough but I had to make that decision. I had to make a decision for myself, and sitting down with Coach Mora and talking to him, it was just something I had to do.”
With the aid of hindsight, Jack still thinks he made the right decision to leave school.
“You have to make a lot of decisions on your own and you have to live with them,” Jack said. “Whatever decisions you make, it’s the bed you have to lie in. I’m young. I don’t know what’s going to happen next but so far it’s looking good. I’ve just been working hard every day.”
Jack has been rehabbing at Fischer Institute in Phoenix, which is run by Arizona Cardinals team physical therapist Brett Fischer. Jack was cleared to run and cut on Jan. 22, four months to the day after suffering the injury.
He’ll miss the on-field workouts here at the NFL scouting combine but will go through medical exams and interviews.
Jack expects to be cleared by early March, so he can participate in his pro day on March 12. It’ll be his first on-field exposure since he had six tackles and an interception in his last college game on Sept. 19 against BYU. It’ll also be teams’ first opportunity to gauge where Jack fits into an NFL defense.
If you ask Jack, however, that’s anywhere. Except running back.
The two-way player in college wants to play defense in the NFL. He said he’ll line up at any of the linebacker positions, and has heard some teams want him as a strong safety – which he played once as a sophomore.
“I describe myself as a football player,” Jack said. “I always said if they want to put me at running back, let’s do it. That’d be a cool experience.”
But defense – and in any scheme, at that – is where Jack wants to spend his NFL days. And if Jack had to choose his specific role, it’d a mix of Von Miller in Denver and Luke Kuechly in Carolina.
“I like how they just let him run,” Jack said of Kuechly. “See ball. Hit ball. Get in your job. Really just make plays. That type of role, where they move Von around, they let Luke move freely. [New England’s Jamie Collins covers guys off the ball.
“I enjoy that stuff.”