A PERIODIC LOOK AT SOME OF THE MOST INTRIGUING RISING STARS
Meet Brett Hundley, the world's worst telemarketer. Or maybe the world's best.
A few months ago Hundley, UCLA's sophomore quarterback, was handed a list of 40 Bruins season-ticket holders and given 90 minutes to call and thank them for their loyalty to the program. If quantity is your barometer of success, the gregarious Hundley failed miserably at his task. "I'm the type of person who'll sit here and have a conversation," Hundley says. "I'm not going to rush anybody off the phone. I made like 15 calls."
After introducing himself, Hundley, who has thighs like redwood trunks and the voice of a Quiet Storm deejay, usually heard a slight gasp on the other end of the line. Then the questions came. How does the team look? How can you replace Johnathan Franklin's 1,734 rushing yards? Can you beat USC again? Can you make a third consecutive Pac-12 title game? How will you avoid a slide like the last three games of 2012? Hundley answered every one, and afterward he calculated the opportunity cost of providing top-notch customer service to a small group rather than lousy service to a large group. "You'd rather have 15 satisfied people," the quarterback says, "than 40 that you just blew through."
Hundley has thought all summer about consumer satisfaction and its effect on demand. To prepare for his major in economics, Hundley took Statistics for Economists (Econ 41) and Microeconomic Theory (Econ 11). He studied consumer behavior one indifference curve at a time—and realized that he has been taking part in a grand consumer-satisfaction experiment since early last year. Between January and August 2012, UCLA upgraded its football product. First came a new coaching staff led by Jim Mora. Then came a position switch that turned teammate Anthony Barr from an average H-back into an offense-wrecking linebacker. Then, in August, UCLA coaches chose redshirt freshman Hundley over two seniors to lead the offense. By last November the sharp increase in demand for UCLA football was obvious. All Hundley had to do was look around the Rose Bowl. The student section that wasn't even at half capacity in September? It overflowed.
In an age when quarterbacks at every level transfer at the drop of a helmet if they don't win the starting job as a freshman or a sophomore, Hundley is an anomaly. He played on the junior varsity at Chandler (Ariz.) High as a freshman and sophomore. He played so well on the JV and during a late-season varsity call-up in his second year that Colorado offered him a scholarship as a quarterback. But while the Buffaloes wanted Hundley running the offense eventually, Hundley's high school coach, Jim Ewan, didn't want him doing so immediately. Chandler had an all-region quarterback named Kyle Yount returning for his senior year in 2009. In the off-season before his junior year Hundley did not do enough to unseat him.
"This is b.s.," Hundley remembers telling his father, Brett Sr., after he learned he hadn't won the job. The younger Hundley wanted to transfer to a school that would let him start. Brett Sr., a former Arizona running back and receiver, worked with the Chandler receivers in his spare time, and he had been involved in the coaches' meetings that determined who the Wolves' quarterback would be. He knew his son was the best option, but he bit his tongue. When his son wanted to flee the school, Brett Sr. said no. "Be patient," he remembers telling his son. "Keep working on your craft. You're not going to transfer anywhere."
Brett Sr. knew his son would succeed eventually. He had recognized Brett Jr.'s inner drive as early as the sixth grade. Back then, the elder Hundley woke up every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday morning at 4 a.m. for push-ups, sit-ups and running. "That's my cup of coffee," he says. One day Brett Jr. asked if he might tag along. Brett Sr. agreed, on one condition. "Whenever you make up your mind, then you'll get up," Brett Sr. told his son. "I'm not going to wake you up." Sure enough, Brett Jr. hauled his preadolescent self out of bed.
Brett Sr. told his son that what he did in the dark would show in the light. The Hundleys spent the next six years running together before the sun came up, even in the cold and the rain, always pushing each other to go faster. So when Brett Jr.'s football career hit a speed bump, Brett Sr. knew it wouldn't slow his son—even if his son didn't.