SAN BERNARDINO — Brett Hundley knows he’s the leader of this team.
The UCLA quarterback lingered on the practice field at Cal State San Bernardino after everyone else on the team had already headed to the locker room. Encircled by media, he answered questions with candor and thoughtfulness as the noon sun beat down.
This, he said, is his duty now — the voice of the team, the face of the program. As a redshirt freshman last year, head coach Jim Mora had overruled a vote for Hundley as captain. Senior running back Johnathan Franklin also commanded of the attention, spreading word of his mayoral aspirations as he set multiple school records.
It’s Hundley’s turn, both on and off the field.
Away from the gridiron, Hundley has become heavily involved in the National College Players Association, which advocates for the interests of collegiate athletes.
Founded at UCLA in 1997 by former football player Ramogi Huma, Bruins still maintain a strong connection to the NCPA. Before Hundley, punter Jeff Locke and cornerback Alterraun Verner were active members.
Last September, Gov. Jerry Brown signed SB 1525, a bill sponsored by the NCPA which mandated that universities cover scholarships and medical costs for injured athletes. In March, the organization released a study stating that the average FBS full athletic scholarship fell $3,285 short of the full cost of attendance, including out-of-pocket expenses.
The solution, Hundley argued, should be an additional stipend system.
“One of the messages that we’re getting across is not players getting paid, but at least players have something,” he said. “They want to get something to eat or buy a pair of shoes. You hear about dudes getting houses and stuff, and that’s not what we’re trying to go for. That’s not the message we’re trying to get across. …
“It’s more about just having something rather than having nothing. When you have nothing, players are looking around like, ‘Man, there’s millions of dollars.’ At the end of the day, it would be nice to have something where players can go take a girl out, go to the movies.”
The topic of pay for collegiate athletes has dominated sports headlines recently, with the central figures being former UCLA basketball player Ed O’Bannon and Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, a Heisman winner. The former is the face of a lawsuit against the NCAA which asserts that college athletes should own the rights to their own likenesses.
The latter is accused of violating NCAA rules by selling his own autographs. That Manziel also has a party-boy image — one bolstered by photos of him holding alcohol and fanning out cash.
Hundley is a rising star too, but has avoided controversy and even sworn off social media for extended stints. Still, he sympathized with Manziel, who is only six months his senior.
“He’s our age,” he said. “He’s trying to live life. He’s trying to have fun. That’s what college kids do. (But) at the end of the day, we’re faces of big time programs and doing big things. We’ve got to understand when we walk out, we’re not just anybody else walking around.”