When Brett Hundley left Chandler High School in 2011 he was one of the biggest targets for college recruiters hoping to land one of the best players coming out of the prep game that year.
A top-five, dual-threat quarterback with a rifle for an arm, Hundley was the last of the elite QBs left on the market when he committed to play for UCLA, passing up scholarship offers from Arizona and Arizona State.
And now, after a record-setting career with the Bruins and a four-year journey through the NFL, Arizona’s prodigal son is returning to the state where it all began, signed to a $2 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals.
But this time, he’s starting at the bottom again, as a presumed back-up quarterback.
Before he committed to UCLA just before his senior season at Chandler High began, it looked like the two Pac-12 schools in the state still had a shot at landing the prized recruit. The Wildcats even had an inside track in their recruitment efforts: the youngster’s father, Brett Sr., had been a running back at Arizona back in the day.
But Brett decided not to go where he would be playing in his father’s shadow. And his decision to move to the Sunshine State and learn how to run Rick Neuheisel’s ‘pistol’ offense paid off handsomely.
Before he moved on to the college game, he put together junior and senior seasons that earned him Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year honors as a junior and elevated him to No. 3 prep quarterback in the nation (scout.com). He was ranked as a five-star recruit by Scout.com and given four stars by Rivals.com and ESPN.com.
As a junior at Chandler, Hundley threw for 1,517 yards and 16 touchdowns and then added another 1,208 rushing yards and 12 more TDs. His senior numbers were even more impressive: 2,348 yards passing for 20 touchdowns, while rushing for 856 yards and nine TDs.
Another number that caught the eye of recruiters: he threw just two interceptions in each of those seasons. He completed 63 percent of his passes as a junior and 62 percent his final season.
Hundley sat out his freshman year at UCLA while he absorbed the playbook and readied his game for the next level. But he started every game of the next three years and built a record-setting career. He finished his UCLA career as the all-time leader in career touchdown passes (75), total offense (11,713 yards), and games of 300 total yards (20).
During his three seasons directing the Bruin offense, he posted the program’s top three single-season offensive efforts and threw or ran for a TD in all but one of his 40 games, the lone exception when he played just one quarter in a game against Texas in his senior campaign.
Hundley wasted no time once he got the starting job as a sophomore. He scored a touchdown on his first collegiate play, running for a 72-yard TD in the season-opener against Rice, and finished the season with a new school record for single-season passing yardage with 3,740 yards.
All those glitzy stats earned him a selection in the 2015 NFL draft. The Green Bay Packers made him their fifth-round pick as a back-up to future Hall-of-Famer Aaron Rodgers – a move that paid off during the 2017 season when Rodgers went down with a season-ending injury and Hundley took over the offense for nine games. He threw for 1,836 yards and nine touchdowns.
But he was traded to Seattle last season and returned to the bench without seeing any playing time with the Seahawks.
Now, one more time, at age 25, he will have to prove he should be more than a back-up to returning starter, Josh Rosen.
The Cards’ new head coach, Kliff Kingsbury, will have two UCLA-developed quarterbacks from which to choose. Rosen arrived at UCLA the year Hundley entered the NFL draft and led the Bruins for the next three seasons.