La Sonjia Jack had a small gathering at her Bellevue home Saturday night to watch her son play for UCLA against Arizona. As is her custom, LaSonjia watched the television intently when the Bruins were on defense, since Myles is a starting linebacker as a true freshman.
“When the offense comes on, I get up and get chips, chit-chat,’’ she said.
That is, until her younger son, Jahden, started yelling, “Mom, he’s playing offense!”
La Sonjia was initially skeptical, “and then I saw the quarterback hand him the ball, and I went to screaming. I said, “Are you kidding me? He didn’t tell me anything!”
Jack’s mom wasn’t the only one who didn’t see this coming. It was a move that shocked — and enthralled — college football, and flummoxed Arizona.
He was a revelation from that first carry. Myles Jack rumbled 29 yards on a key third-and-one situation in the second quarter. “If I don’t get the first down, I’ll have to go right back on the field, so I’d better convert,“ Jack told himself.
With a phalanx of three fellow defensive players as his blocking backs in an inverted wishbone formation, Jack gained 120 yards on six carries in UCLA’s 31-26 win, capped by a 66-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. On defense, Jack had eight tackles and a fumble recovery, providing two-way prowess rare in college football.
LaSonjia has seen it before.
“Myles has been playing both ways since he was 6, so it’s nothing new for our family,’’ she said.
Will Jack’s dual role continue Friday when the Huskies play UCLA at the Rose Bowl? Bruins coach Jim Mora is being coy, saying he doesn’t want to overload Jack, who plays virtually every down at linebacker. But you can bet the Bruins aren’t going to abandon a weapon so potent that Jack was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.
“You’ve got to be careful,’’ Mora said in a conference call. “He’s an 18-year-old freshman. His plate is pretty full, not just with football, but with school, the social element, adapting to college life. We have to make sure we move methodically.”
Jack, on the other hand, has made a career out of moving flamboyantly. Butch Goncharoff, whose Bellevue High Wolverines are in pursuit of their sixth straight Class 3A state title, still lights up when remembering one of Jack’s scampers against Mount Si.
“That was probably one of the best runs anyone has ever seen,’’ Goncharoff said. “If we had entered it on ‘SportsCenter,’ it would have made top 10. It was like the Marshawn (Lynch) Beast Quake run, just incredible.’’
Goncharoff, in fact, assumed at one point that Jack’s collegiate future was on offense, particularly after an outstanding sophomore season carrying the ball for Bellevue.
“We thought, this is the next great running back to come through here,’’ he said.
But a growth spurt guided Jack — now 6 feet 1, 225 pounds — toward defense, though he remained a two-way high-school player.
The Huskies went hard after Jack, but he chose UCLA partly because of his association with Mora, whose kids attended Bellevue.
Jack, who was 12 when he moved from Georgia, called Kasen Williams “my idol growing up,’’ and has fond memories of meeting current Huskies like Shaq Thompson, Bishop Sankey and Keith Price during the recruiting process. He recalls going to virtually every Washington home game his senior year.
“I definitely had a relationship with their entire coaching staff,’’ he said in a phone interview. “It was neck and neck between UCLA, Washington and Arizona State. At the end of the day, I could only pick one.’’
Flash forward to last Wednesday, when the UCLA staff told Jack they were contemplating using him on offense.
“They pulled me out of a defensive meeting, and we practiced it for like five minutes,’’ he said. “The night before the game at the hotel, we talked about it a little, but I didn’t think it was going to happen.”
In the second quarter, the coaches summoned Jack to play running back.
“I still prefer defense,’’ Jack said. “Some people feel I should play running back, but in my heart I feel I’m a defensive player. But if they need me to carry a couple of times, I’m definitely down for it.”
And the next time, his mom — who will be at Friday’s game in person — won’t let her attention waver when the Bruins go on offense.