WATCH: Brittain Brown, Jordan Genmark Heath Talk Transfer Experience, Leading UCLA Football to Bowl Berth - Sports Illustrated UCLA Bruins News, Analysis and More

2021-12-24 02:29:38 By : Mr. Roc Yuan

Two of the Bruins' oldest players shared their thoughts leading up to their final games at the college level.

UCLA football running back Brittain Brown and linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath were the two players made available to the media following Thursday's practice.

Brown talked about his recent injury and ensuing recovery, the role he's played in recruiting other Duke transfers and what he's used his experience and leadership skills to help younger running backs like Deshun Murrell. Genmark Heath gave some insight into his journey from Notre Dame and how he feels people started believing in him again at UCLA, as well as the future of the linebackers group with him moving on this upcoming offseason.

Last game in UCLA uniform and how are you doing with injury?

It's an exciting feeling, just having one more to finish out the college career. Something I've been looking forward these past couple weeks, just not playing the last two games and seeing how well the team was doing made me want to get back out there even more. Everybody's excited about the bowl game, it's the first one in like six years I think. Going down there to San Diego, having everybody's family down there is going to have us charged up.

Chip said you were pretty close the last two games?

For me, it was just about being cautious. We didn't want to hurt it any more than it already was. I was definitely ready to get back out there but they told me, 'Just be smart about the injury and when we need you, you'll be back in there if you're ready.' Plus, we knew we had the bowl game, so might as well get an extra couple weeks of healing.

How do you think two years at UCLA improved draft stock?

I think it's helped a lot. Just getting more film on there was the main thing for me. I dealt with a shoulder injury for like two and a half years at Duke. Just being able to get back on the field and show the scouts I'm still here, still trying to run that thing, still helping out the team when I'm on the field. Just getting that film out there was the best thing for me.

How about program itself. Resources + coaches contribute to it too?

I think it's helped a lot. I mean, everybody knows who Chip Kelly is. Another reason for coming out here was the exposure. The coaching staff, coach Foster being the lead, he knows a lot of people, the program itself has been on the rise. So all that combined together helped out my draft stock.

Hypothetically Duke players want to transfer to UCLA, how big of an impact would you have on their recruitments?

Yeah, for stuff like that, if guys call me, I'm always open to taking calls and just letting them know what's going on at UCLA. It'd be cool as hell if a pipeline got set up and more Duke coming to UCLA. Keeping that kind of same kind of school, same kind of culture. So I'd think that'd be a great thing.

Would you say you've had an impact on that right now?

Probably so. All my old teammates know where I'm at and know how well it's going for me. I think them seeing that with their own eyes is like, "Why not?" Coach Cutt left the program, they parted ways, so a lot of guys are looking for a new home.

Feel like rivalry for you given ACC history?

For me, I've never played NC State, because we only played them every four years. It's weird how it works over there. But I'm glad to be playing against an ACC team again. I know how they operate over there. I am going to treat it as a little bit more, just because that's gonna get me going, so why not? I know some of the guys on that NC State team, so it's going to be fun. 

Teammates handling bowl game for first time?

Yeah, for most of them, like you said, they haven't been to a bowl game, but they've been watching the older guys that have been and all the transfers. It's been about leadership and helping showing those guys the experience that we had, just showing them how you operate in these couple weeks without a game, getting back on the field and going through a normal operation and just getting the team together and getting everybody excited to go out there and play again. Coach Kelly just – he has a good game plan for us and we've all been operating under the same intention of trying to go out there and win this game, so I think everybody's ready and they've been practicing accordingly.

Flex your leadership muscles when you were hurt?

Yeah, it was just me being a little bit louder now on the sideline and just being able to see a little bit more, so I think it was good to be on those younger guys like BK and Deshun Murrell, and just kind of help them getting ready too, get reps in there. And yeah, it kind of helped me learn a little bit more just seeing what he wants with stuff, coach Foster helps out there as well, so it was really good. A learning opportunity and everything.

It doesn't feel any different yet, but I bet when I go out there, it's gonna feel kind of surreal, just going by looking at the journey. Just six years now, with the redshirt year and everything, so I'm ready for it and I've been ready to move on to the next level too, so it's gonna be fun out there, I'm ready to enjoy myself.

Yeah, just like you said, handle the ecosystem, just kinda staying away from each other, keeping the distance, not trying to stay in areas around each other for too long. We have all the protocols put in place to where we're not eating in large settings anymore, we're kind of taking stuff to go, going back home. And just a modified schedule to keep everybody away from each other. Been working out pretty well so far.

Jake Bobo committing to UCLA?

Yeah, I was talking to Bobo the whole time, that's my guy. Came in there, he was a freshman, I was a junior. So, I mean, from the moment he said he wanted to leave and find something else, I was like 'Bro, a wide receiver like you, this is probably one of the best spots to be.' And I just know how good a kid he is and I could tell he could probably fit in the program really well, so when he came up here, I got to host him, got to show him around and everything. So we talked extensively about how the program is and what's in store for him.

Deshun Murrell impact in the future?

I think he's gonna be an every-down back. From what I can see, he's a smart dude, he picks up on stuff really quick, so quick that I think he's gonna be able to come back with everything he learned this year and apply it next year and I think he's gonna be able to do great things for us, man. He's just a smart kid and he's just gonna do everything the right way and that's gonna take him a long way in his career.

Jordan Genmark Heath's value as a leader, winning experience at Notre Dame?

Yeah, Jordan's brought a little bit of everything. He came in there, he told me what he was gonna do, he said he's gonna get on that field and he did what he said. Strong dude, fast dude, leadership skills off the charts. I think all the attributes that he has raise the defense to another level. Playmaker, came in here, getting picks left and right, making tackles all across the field. So just with that being said, coming from Notre Dame, he's probably got a couple rings just being on those great teams and everything. He's been a strong leader to play off too for these playoffs and bowl games, so he was a great addition. He's only gonna help us for this bowl game, so he's ready.

Value of your Notre Dame experience for a team that hasn't played in a bowl game?

That’s a really good question. Especially when you’re playing for a bowl game at the end, whatever bowl game it is, it’s a different – it’s a longer season, you have some time off, we get some time to recover, kind of self evaluate yourself, see what was working throughout the season, see what hasn’t been working so well, finding weaknesses and strengths. But for me, being in the positions like me, Ale, for example, some of the other guys who are a little bit older, we’ve been in situations like this and it’s just another game for us so it doesn’t matter if it’s week 13, six, five, we’re going to prepare the same and just having the mentality that even though we have that little break and some time off from football, we still have to be locked in and finish the job that we started.

Tutor some of the guys who haven't played in a bowl?

Yeah, well I also think we have such a mature team. We’re all older ,disciplined, so we all know what’s at stake. So it hasn’t been really a big bro mentality. We’ve all kind of been on the same page and that’s when we play the best football so I’m just excited to go out there. it’s been what, three weeks, whatever, since we last played and it’s going to be fun playing at Petco too.

I think it will once we, you know, we’re victorious, the confetti’s out there. I look up and I’ve got like 40 people in the stands, that’s when I think the emotions will kick in but as of right now, I’m locked in on game plan and I’m excited.

Homecoming from you in San Diego?

Yeah, I’m super excited. Obviously my parents are thrilled. It was either that or Vegas and I’m not that good of a gambler so it’s better for me to go to San Diego. But nah, it’s going to be a good time. I have a lot of family coming in, family friends, a lot of people who have helped me on the way get me to the point that I am today so it’s going to be nice to give them tickets, have them all cheering to see kind of where I am today. And there’s no better place than San Diego! I might be a little biased, but it could be a lot worse.

Have to negotiate to get a lot of tickets?

Oh no, absolutely. I think I gave up all my little theraguns I have, my NIL deals, I had to do all the favors. But they looked out, they know the San Diego kids kind of get priority and whatnot and the trick is to get the out of state kids as fast as possible. But no, I got a decent amount so it’s going to be good.

You've said people had given up on you before – what does UCLA mean to you now that you've bounced back here?

Yeah, no, I mean, like I mentioned before, there was a time – everybody sees the glitz and glamour of college football. There’s obviously like a mental side of it and sometimes, you have aspirations of being the best player that you can be and if you go to big programs or wherever you go, you want to be the best. It was a mental battle for me. I was in a very dark place. But having the opportunity to come here, receiving my masters and playing football one more year, it kind of just brought my confidence back, it brought my love for the game back and you know, I’m extremely grateful to this staff, this strength staff and everybody here for giving me this opportunity. I kind of went out and bet on myself and now we’re going to a bowl game so I think we did something right. But no, it’s been a journey and I’m excited to see kind of what’s next.

Jon Gaines hasn't been to San Diego, going to show him around?

Yeah, we have to. Me and Jon Gaines, we go at it every day in practice, I love it, every time we go good on good, we always talk a little smack here and there, but no, I definitely gotta show those guys around my city. I live about 10, 15 minutes away so COVID protocols put forth, but we might have to go to my crib. Have mom put some food up and bring the guys up. But no, it’s going to be a good time. Hopefully the weather is going to be a little better than it is today. But it’s sunny San Diego. So it’s nicer down there compared to L.A.

Younger linebackers like Damian Sellers, JonJon Vaughns and Jeremiah Trojans future in the program?

I think they’ve progressed tremendously throughout the season. If you look at us from the beginning, just look at those first couple games to now and obviously it’s been a situation where myself included, Ale, Caleb having played the majority of the snaps, some of them as well, but I think they’re ready and they’ve been working equally as hard during the week. So once that transition comes and they also – slept on Kobey Fitzgerald, I’m going to tell you that right now, he’s a hell of a player, we joke around about it, but no, he’s a really good player, but when we add him back into the room from his injury, we’re going to be more than fine. They add the same type of intensity, physicality and it’s just another year of learning the playbook and they’re going to go out there and they might be better. So we’ll see.

They’re an exciting team. I played NC State my freshman year when they had Bradley Chubb, I believe. He was a menace. But it’s a good team, extremely well coached. Just playing more of a sideline operation so we’re going to try to go out there, do our thing. I don’t think they’ve seen the same type of movements that we have on defense so they’re going to have to adjust and also our speed at all levels so it’s going ot be an exciting time and hopefully we can get after those guys. But a well-rounded team and they’re going to prepare for us as well as we’re going to prepare for them. So it’s going to be a good time.

Swimming with the dolphins with Dorian?

Oh no, no. I don’t do – animals like that, I would never go into their habitat and try to act like you got it. But if Dorian wants to do that, Dorian as you know, likes to do different things so if he wants to swim with the dolphins, he’s got it. I’m going to watch from the sideline. 

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Sam Connon is the Publisher and Managing Editor at All Bruins, in association with the FanNation and Sports Illustrated networks.