Former UCLA linebacker Myles Jack’s decision to declare for the draft in October, following a knee injury expected to keep him sidelined for the rest of the season, was made with a single-minded focus: readying himself for the NFL.
Once he knew he wasn’t going to play, any tangible value he offered the Bruins from a win-loss standpoint was largely nonexistent. If he knew he was leaving, why stick around? So he didn’t.
In early November, about a month after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus, Jack moved to Arizona, where he began a six-days-a-week rehabilitation process at the Fischer Institute of Physical Therapy and Performance. Free from the responsibilities of a college student, Jack worked out twice a day and entered into a regimented diet that cut out all sugar consumption. After a few weeks at the facility, Jack resumed running. He should not have any limitations at next month's NFL combine.
The attention he received from a rehabilitation and dietary standpoint validated the decision to leave UCLA when he did, but Jack said he still tried to stay engaged with the team during the season.
“I was along with them every step of the way, pretty much. I didn’t miss a game,” Jack said. “I was calling [my teammates] after games, Snapchatting them after games. I was there, but not there, you know what I mean? I was trying to be a part of the team as much as I could.”
That didn’t include any trips to attend a game in person, but Jack said he tried to help by reaching out to potential UCLA recruits on Twitter and lauding his experience at the school.
Jack turned out to be the first of six UCLA players to declare early for the draft, including five from Jack’s recruiting class in 2013.
“We kind of like to think of our class as the one that changed things at UCLA,” Jack said. “The Class of 2013, we all came in and are a tight-knit group. We were focused on changing things and just being a class that was memorable.”
As Jack's career progresses, however, one important question remains: What position will he play in the NFL?
Other than it being on the defensive side, even he’s not sure.
“Linebacker, maybe safety, maybe outside backer,” Jack said. “It all depends on how the coaches see me. Some people kind of see that as a bad thing, but I see it as a good thing. You can kind of plug me in wherever you feel like you see me or wherever the coach sees me. I feel like I was pretty successful at UCLA wherever they plugged me in at.”
Those spots included inside and outside linebacker, safety, corner, nickel and in the offensive backfield. In his initial mock draft, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. calls Jack a "special talent" and projects him to go to the New York Giants with the No. 10 overall pick.
Coming out of Washington a year ago, linebacker Shaq Thompson faced similar questions regarding how his game would translate to the NFL. Most of his college career was spent at linebacker, but, like Jack, Thompson made cameos at running back, was versatile enough to be used in coverage and at 6-feet, 228 pounds wasn’t viewed to have ideal size to play linebacker in the NFL.
The Carolina Panthers saw past those potential size and scheme issues and drafted Thompson with the No. 25 overall pick. They plugged him into the starting lineup at outside linebacker, and he played a valuable role in the Panthers’ run to a 15-1 record during the regular season.
Jack, who was named the Pac-12’s freshman of the year in 2013, is a little bigger and might be a more impressive athlete than Thompson. At 6-foot-1, Jack said he played anywhere between 220 and 255 pounds in his two-plus seasons in college (UCLA listed him at 6-1, 245 this year). He hasn’t decided where he wants to settle weight-wise at the combine.
“I feel like I can transition my body into whatever position they want me to play,” Jack said. “I feel like I have the skill set and desire to do whatever they need me to do. It’s not an issue.”
Regardless of what position he tries to zero in on, Jack promises to be one of the most intriguing players in this year's draft.