LOS ANGELES — Jerry Neuheisel was in at quarterback, trying to beat Texas. Brett Hundley was on the bench, his left elbow in a mummy-like wrap.
The situation as seen through the eyes of two fathers is interesting.
Rick Neuheisel, a former UCLA quarterback and head coach, was in the Pac-12 Networks’ studio in San Francisco, but took a break as analyst to plead with the television.
“Come on, Jer, come on Jer,” Neuheisel begged in a video released by the network.
Brett Hundley Sr., watching at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, left his seat behind the UCLA bench to join a large section of Bruins fans, where he led them in “Jer-ry, Jer-ry, Jer-ry” chants.
“Of course, I was bummed about Brett’s situation,” Hundley Sr. said. “Then I realized, ‘Wait a minute, we got to get Jerry fired up.’ ”
Neuheisel led the Bruins to a 20-17 victory, the difference his 33-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Payton with three minutes left.
Teammates hoisted him on their shoulders as Rick Neuheisel screamed in ecstasy back in California.
Brett Hundley Sr. said he was as proud of the sophomore quarterback as he would have been of his own son. “I realized, especially with my son hurt, that somebody else’s son was out there,” he said.
For Jerry Neuheisel, it was the high-water mark in an unusual journey. He came to UCLA to play for his father, only to see him fired before joining the team. It was an uncomfortable situation that Jim Mora, the new coach, helped soothe.
The payoff came Saturday.
“They don’t write ‘em much better than that,” Jerry Neuheisel said after the game.
If someone did, it would probably be rejected as too corny.
“It was like I was in one of those ‘Back to the Future’ movies,” former UCLA coach Terry Donahue said. “Everything Rick did for us, Jerry was doing on that stage Saturday night. Either I was in a time machine or I was having a senior moment.”
Jerry Neuheisel was born into the UCLA program almost literally, arriving in 1992 at UCLA Medical Center, a short throw from where his father was working as the team’s receivers coach.
Rick Neuheisel was something of a Bruins legend, having gone from walk-on quarterback to starter and leading UCLA to victory in the 1984 Rose Bowl.
Rick, who had been head coach at Colorado and Washington, was hired as UCLA coach in 2008, and Jerry landed at Los Angeles Loyola High as a quarterback.
“My dad ingrained in me the chess game that this game is, and quarterback is the only spot you can totally take advantage of that,” Jerry said.
The father-and-son relationship was as close as they come.
The night before the Bruins were to play at Washington State in 2009, Rick paced the hotel lobby, cellphone to his ear as his wife, Susan, fed him play-by-play of the Loyola game. And when Jerry threw a touchdown pass to complete a comeback, his father whooped it up as he sprinted through the corridors.
That Rick offered his oldest son a scholarship — and that he accepted — was no surprise.
“I always knew that UCLA was where I wanted to play and the Rose Bowl was where I wanted to be,” Jerry said.
He enrolled in school in the fall of 2011 but did not join the team until the following spring. By then, his father had been fired and replaced with Mora.
It was a delicate situation, made better by all parties.
“Susan and I both said, ‘Jerry, UCLA fired me, they didn’t fire you,’ ” Rick said. “One thing I did know about Jim Mora, he was a coach’s son. He was uniquely aware of what Jerry was going through.”
Mora, as the son of former NFL coach Jim Mora, had been through similar situations. He had been uprooted as a child by job changes and was on the New Orleans Saints’ staff when his father resigned as head coach.
“I felt empathy for him because of my situation with my dad,” Mora said. “I thought about my kids and how it felt when that happened to me. My whole thing was, ‘Think about how he feels, not about how you feel.’
“I made him a pledge: I was never going to say anything disparaging about the prior regime and, if I did, that he had to come talk to me if something I said bothered him.”
Rick was adamant that his son try to stick it out.
“We told Jerry to go through spring practice and see if this was a fit for you,” Rick said. “I didn’t want him to be bitter or angry with UCLA just because UCLA sent his dad packing.”
In the final minutes of UCLA’s victory, Rick Neuheisel was worked up and yelling, “Come Jer, now seal the deal ... look at him ... look at him!”
Hundley Sr., in the stadium, was also overcome with emotion. “Knowing that family, knowing them all, I couldn’t have been more happy,” he said.
Rick Neuheisel had recruited young Hundley to UCLA a year before recruiting his son.
There were no illusions about who would be the Bruins’ starter. Hundley was a special talent and is expected to go high in the NFL draft next spring.
Jerry Neuheisel was not deterred.
“Everyone thinks I came to UCLA to play for my dad,” Jerry said. “That was part of it. Me and my dad have a great relationship. But it’s the guys on the team. There is something about wearing the blue and the gold that means the absolute world to me.”
Neuheisel reveled in being a member of the team.
His first year, he and Luke Gane stole the freshman talent show with a Batman parody — Gane as the Joker and Neuheisel as his hostage. Any player doing a video interview risked being photo-bombed by a mop of blond hair. And when Jerry played the role of quarterback Matt Barkley on the scout team before the 2012 UCLA-USC game, he made sure to point out that the only thing about the Trojans quarterback he couldn’t mimic was “his smirk.”
“He’s fun-loving, but takes his responsibility seriously and he encourages his teammates,” Mora said. “I think that’s why we were all excited to see the way he performed, and when I say all of us, I mean players, coaches, fans.
“I know it has been very difficult on him, but he has been able to work through it and mask anything that bothers him. That he stayed says a lot about Rick and Susan and the type of young man they raised.”
Rick Neuheisel fought off the temptation to be his son’s quarterback coach and kept his distance the last two seasons, though he occasionally observed spring practices from high atop the parking structure behind Spaulding Field.
“I wanted to go watch my boy, but the last thing that was needed was for me to make anyone feel uncomfortable or have people looking to see if I was disgruntled,” Rick said.
Jerry sat out the 2012 season and served as the holder for field goals and PATs last season — as his father had done early in his career — and saw some mop-up duty.
That was his lot in life again this season until Hundley scrambled on a third-down play Saturday and wobbled to the sideline.
“My dad had been a backup quarterback,” Jerry said. “It was ingrained in me my whole life to always be ready.”
With Hundley encouraging him from the sideline, the offensive line tightened, the running backs picked up extra yards and the defense made stops.
Jerry passed for 178 yards — about the distance his father covered around the studio — and two touchdowns.
“That was the beauty of the whole thing,” Brett Hundley Sr. said. “To see everyone lifting their game and rallying behind Jerry.”
The text messages started while Jerry was being carried by his teammates. Rick’s former teammates and players were reaching out.
“I have never had my phone blow up like that,” Rick said.
One message, from former UCLA receiver Paco Craig, stood out.
It read: “He is your son.”
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