UCLA tailback and kick returner Maurice Drew will pass up his senior season to enter the NFL draft.
Drew, selected to virtually every All-America first team as an all-purpose player/kick returner, led UCLA in rushing the past three years. He ran for 914 yards and 13 touchdowns this season to help the Bruins to a 10-2 record and No. 16 ranking in The Associated Press poll.
"Maurice has made the decision that he feels is best for himself and his family," UCLA coach Karl Dorrell said in a statement. "While I would counsel players to enjoy the college experience and earn a degree, I am supportive of his decision to move onto the next stage of his life.
"Maurice is a great young man and he has been a joy to coach for the last three years. He has been a key component in the rebuilding of this program."
Drew said his decision to turn pro was to honor the wish of his late grandfather, who had a heart attack in the stands at the Rose Bowl during a UCLA game on Sept. 10 and died shortly afterward.
"That was something he and I had talked about earlier. I wasn't worried about it, wanted to make sure this season went well," Drew said Saturday during a conference call. "My grandmother told me after the USC game [Dec. 3] that he had told her that he wanted me to go to the NFL.
"I'd do anything he wanted."
Drew lived with his grandparents, Maurice and Christina Jones, in Pinole, Calif., near San Francisco, for much of his youth. His grandfather was 69 when he died.
The 5-foot-8, 205-pound Drew, expected to be chosen sometime in the first three rounds of the draft, averaged a Division I-A-record 28.5 yards on 15 punt returns this season, running three back for touchdowns. He likely would be used as a returner and spot running back in the NFL.
Drew, dazzling in the open field, set a UCLA record with 4,655 career all-purpose yards in 36 games. His 39 touchdowns included 16 of 40 yards or more, including four punt returns and two kickoff returns for scores.
"We will miss Maurice, but we have Chris Markey, Kahlil Bell and Derrick Williams in the program. Chris and Kahlil showed what they are capable of during the Sun Bowl," Dorrell said. "In addition, we are recruiting several running backs and are looking to sign some top prospects on February 1."
Markey rushed for 150 yards and Bell for 136, both career highs, in the Bruins' 50-38 Sun Bowl win over Northwestern.