Seven months after transferring out, Malcolm Jones is back at UCLA — without a scholarship in perhaps his final collegiate season.
“I never should have left,” Jones said. “It was a bad decision on my part. I was too heated at the moment. I didn’t really think of the consequences.”
The 6-foot, 220-pound tailback left the team after being involved in just six plays in last fall’s season opener, far less time action than he’d expected. It was the last straw in what had been a frustrating career as a Bruin, one in which he felt his talents weren’t being properly utilized. After being named Gatorade Player of the Year at Oaks Christian, Jones scored one touchdown in his first two seasons as a Bruin.
Quitting after one game was “100 percent” a mistake, he said Sunday. Leaving football left him in a deep funk, and watching UCLA make a run to a Pac-12 South title stung even more. Eventually, he e-mailed head coach Jim Mora and set up a meeting where he asked for another chance.
He got it, but as a walk-on. Nevertheless, with no clear frontrunner at running back, Jones is eager to prove that he deserves a roster spot. He’s still aiming to start, but he’ll contribute any way he can.
“I don’t think anybody lost any respect for him given what transpired, him leaving the team,” Mora said. “I feel like everyone respects him and wants him to do well.”
Jones’ remaining eligibility still isn’t clear. The team plans to petition the NCAA to waive his previous season as a redshirt year; for now, he’s preparing as if he’ll end his college career in December or January. He still isn’t consistent in practice, but he has impressive moments too.
“I think what Malcolm needs is just somebody pissing him off every day,” Mora said. “When he’s mad, when somebody gets in his craw a little bit and makes him angry, he’s a different guy. We need to find that switch all the time.”