The UCLA football team’s latest walk-on success story is Josiah Norwood.
One by one, UCLA coach Chip Kelly called the six players to the front of the meeting room.
Josiah Norwood. Alex Johnson. Carson Schwesinger. Jack Landherr IV. Nicholas Barr-Mira. Dovid Magna.
Come on down.
Some of the UCLA veterans had seen this sort of thing before and knew where it was headed. Senior offensive lineman Jon Gaines II stood up in excited anticipation.
All the players were walk-ons. By the time Kelly was done talking, they had something new in common.
They wouldn’t have to pay any more tuition. They were now on scholarship.
“That was a really awesome moment,” Norwood said of the announcement near the end of training camp.
A fifth-year senior, Norwood found a way to top it Saturday near the end of the Bruins’ season opener. The receiver took a short pass from quarterback Ethan Garbers, picked up a block from receiver Matt Sykes and zoomed ahead for a 50-yard touchdown that capped his team’s 45-17 victory.
The first touchdown of Norwood’s career fulfilled a prophecy. His best friend from high school, who now attends USC, texted him before the game with a prediction he would score.
“Yeah, rival,” Norwood said of his pal. “But he’s got love for me.”
Norwood became the latest former walk-on to make a significant impact under Kelly, joining tight end Greg Dulcich, offensive lineman Sam Marrazzo, receiver Christian Pabico and running backs Josh Kelley and Ethan Fernea, among others.
A promise of opportunity was among the reasons Norwood picked UCLA as an undersized quarterback out of Santa Margarita High.
“One of the first things [Kelly] told me when I wanted to come here is, ‘I’m going to give you a chance to come in here and compete,’ ” Norwood said, “and I think that that motivation that he gives us feeds into the way that we play and we practice.”
Norwood spent his first season as a backup quarterback before moving to receiver. He’s steadily increased his production after appearing in just two games in 2019 and none in 2020, making four catches for 32 yards in 2021. He topped that on Saturday alone, his five catches for 63 yards trailing only Kazmeir Allen’s 10 catches for 85 yards.
“That’s super sentimental for me,” quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson said, “because that’s my first roommate being here, he’s a [former] quarterback and so just seeing him grow, especially as a person and an athlete being able to switch over to receiver with how athletic he is and really show off his speed there at the end, I mean you couldn’t be more happy for a guy like that.”
Thanks for coming
Going to the Rose Bowl paid off for those who withstood the outdoor furnace Saturday.
UCLA athletic director Martin Jarmond sent an email to fans who attended the game, informing them they would receive a $25 credit in their ticket accounts to use toward future tickets for any UCLA regular-season sporting event.
“We appreciate your support,” Jarmond wrote, “let’s do it again Saturday!”
Some relief appears in store for the Bruins’ game against Alabama State: The forecast calls for a high of 85 degrees and a chance of showers.
Receivers Kam Brown and Logan Loya, who did not play against Bowling Green for unspecified reasons, participated in the portion of practice open to reporters Monday. Tight end Michael Ezeike, who limped off the field in the second quarter, did not appear to be at practice. … Kelly said Bowling Green’s pressure on Thompson-Robinson was a result of blitzes, not protection breakdowns from the UCLA offensive line. However, Kelly said a communication issue in the special teams blocking scheme led to Bowling Green’s blocked punt for a touchdown. … Running back T.J. Harden (24 yards in six carries) and tight end Carsen Ryan (two catches for 16 yards) were the only true freshmen who played against Bowling Green. … Thompson-Robinson said he should have checked down to receiver Jake Bobo on the pass intended for Titus Mokiao-Atimalala that was intercepted.