Hordes of UCLA alumni will return to So Cal this weekend for homecoming, but former UCLA linebacker Ryan Nece will be back on the Rose Bowl turf in a different capacity.
Nece is now a sideline reporter for the newly formed Pac-12 Networks and will be a a part of the broadcast team for Saturday’s game against Arizona. Nece ““ a four year starter while at UCLA from 1997-2001 ““ enjoyed a seven-year NFL career, winning a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2003.
The Daily Bruin’s Sam Strong caught up with Nece in anticipation of Saturday’s game.
Daily Bruin: I know you’ve been preparing for Saturday’s broadcast by going to practice. What have you seen out of UCLA this week at Spaulding Field?
Ryan Nece: It’s been exciting watching them this week because they’re going to face an Arizona team that plays such an up-tempo style, especially on the offensive side. It’s been interesting to watch the defense run around. It looked like a track meet out there…
It’s going to be important for not only the players to understand the tempo but the coaches have to as well. They have to be able to communicate and get the calls in on time. Arizona forces you into making mistakes and then they take advantage.
DB: For those who aren’t as familiar with your history, take me through how you got here after arriving at UCLA in 1997.
RN: I was fortunate to come to UCLA in ’97. I was a part of a really great recruiting class. That was the first year of a 20-game win streak. We were a team that really had some outstanding players. A lot of my family and friends thought I would be a Trojan because of my dad (former USC defensive back Ronnie Lott) but the day that I stepped on campus at UCLA, it just felt right.
I was fortunate to play my redshirt freshman year and be a Freshman All-American and I was a part of a team that was really trying to build something. It was exciting to go to the Rose Bowl that year and be ranked in the top five for most of the year, competing for a national championship. It’s unfortunate that we came up short but the rest is history.
I won a Super Bowl in (the 2002 season), my first year in the NFL. Once again, I was in the right place at the right time. I was around some great athletes that I got a chance to learn from. The following year, I was able to start and be a part of one of the best defenses of all time.
DB: The Pac-12 Networks brought on Ronnie (Lott) and Rick (Neuheisel) first as studio hosts. Was it a pretty easy decision for you to say yes when you saw what they were trying to do with the networks?
RN: It was an easy decision. What they’re building is really unprecedented. The exposure they’re creating, not only for the main sports like basketball and football, but really the Olympic sports is great.
All of a sudden, all of the sports have the opportunity to be on display on a big-time network. That, to me, is exciting for the athletes and it’s exciting for the university. They get an opportunity to have ownership in their own network and to demonstrate why the Pac-12 is the best conference in the nation. That’s the standard.
DB: You were in the NFL just four years ago. Mora and many of his staff members have NFL experience. Do you see a lot of positives from having that NFL-style instruction on this coaching staff?
RN: The sense of professionalism and work ethic that they bring from the NFL to the college game shows what it takes to be great every play. In college, you have to balance your work load with your social life and your classes but it’s still a business and a full-time job. The coaches are doing a good job educating these guys of what it takes to be good week in and week out.
DB: Specifically with coach Mora, he’s a guy who was in the NFL when you were there. How do you think he’s making the transition? He’s got a wealth of experience but it still seems to be very new and raw.
RN: It was almost a little awkward how he handled that victory against Arizona State. It’s so brand new and it almost looked like he was in shock. It was very raw and very genuine and that’s exciting.
DB: I’ll get you out of here on this. You’ve been prepping hard for Saturday’s game. What do you see happening?
RN: I’m confident that UCLA can win the game if they do two things.
They have to tackle very well and they have to be able to run the ball effectively. If they can run the ball and sustain drives, I’m fully convinced that UCLA can win the game.
Email Strong at firstname.lastname@example.org.