Maurice Jones-Drew Caps His Football Career

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Maurice Jones-Drew announced his retirement via Twitter, ending a nine-year run in the NFL.

Much of Jones-Drew’s pro career was spent toiling on bad Jacksonville Jaguars teams that, had he not been one of the most prolific fantasy running backs in the league, might have gone unappreciated.

Sadly, “unappreciated” is an appropriate word to describe much of Jones-Drew’s career, particularly his time at UCLA. But never would be more fitting to remedy that than the day of his retirement.

Go have a look at the numbers he stockpiled as a Bruin, particularly 2004 and 2005.

In 2004, he averaged better than 7 yards per play from scrimmage, establishing himself as a pass-catching threat out of the backfield. He took that element of his game to another level in 2005, catching for 453 yards in 2005.

Now, the explosion of spread offenses has brought with it a proliferation of receiving running backs. But a decade ago, Maurice Jones-Drew was on the cutting edge; a precursor to recent standouts like Ameer Abdullah and UCLA successor Paul Perkins.

Of his four touchdowns via the pass in 2005, none was bigger than the game-winner against Cal, capping a game that makes a case for Pac-10 Game of the Decade in the 2000s.

Jones-Drew was also a forerunner for the multifaceted backs of today in his electrifying return game. In fact, as a college student covering UCLA’s conference counterpart Arizona for the campus newspaper, I was more taken with Maurice Jones-Drew the punt returner than the running back ahead of a November 2005 meeting between the two teams.

I sort of had to be; then-Arizona head coach Mike Stoops hammered how important keeping the ball away from him on special teams would be to the Wildcats’ strategy.

A reference to this game plan was changed by a copy editor to read that Arizona was trying to punt away from Drew Olson, the Bruins’ starting quarterback at the time. So yeah, that was my enduring memory of Maurice Jones-Drew at UCLA for many years.

But with time to reflect, and the mania crosstown rival Reggie Bush generated then somewhat subsided, I have a new appreciation of just how good Jones-Drew was in his college careers.

He excelled as a multifaceted playmaker in much the same vein as Bush, and did so without feeding off a second All-America caliber back, which USC had in LenDale White.

Still, the long shadow Bush individually and USC as a team cast over Los Angeles probably kept Jones-Drew from getting his due.

In most other years, Maurice Jones-Drew would have been a Heisman Trophy finalist. Alas, being unable to fell the Trojans juggernaut denied that opportunity.

At least Jones-Drew got Bush in one other avenue.