Congrats, kids! — Ka’imi Fairbairn wins the Lou Groza Award as the Nation’s Best Kicker, and is named 1st Team All-American, and Kenny Clark makes 3rd Team All-American
It’s hard to write about UCLA Football after what happened last month, but I would be remiss if I failed to mention the prestigious honors recently bestowed on two Bruins — Ka’imi Fairbairn and Kenny Clark. Ka’imi, UCLA’s Placekicker who this season broke fellow Bruin John Lee’s All-Time Scoring Record for the Pac-12 Conference, was recognized as the #1 Kicker in the Country, when he received the Lou Groza Award and was named to the All-American 1st Team. Ka’imi didn’t miss a single Field Goal from 40 yards or less, and made a 60-yarder against Cal this year, and those two qualifications were easily enough to earn the title of Nation’s Best Kicker. Ka’imi has sure come a long way from his first season as a Bruin, when he missed/had blocked 3 of his first 5 PAT’s. In fact, Bruin fans in the Rose Bowl had such little confidence in him, that they started to shush the whole crowd every time he lined up to kick an extra point. Talk about Rags-to-Riches! His worst-to-best transition now has him eyeballing an NFL career, where he will join his UCLA predecessor Kai Forbath, who kicks for New Orleans now.
Also on a path to the NFL is Bruin Defensive Lineman Kenny Clark, who is now also an All-American. Clark was named to the 3rd Team, despite losing his line-mate Eddie Vanderdoes at the start of the season. Without E.V. next to him, Clark was subjected to double-teams all year. But even getting blocked by two guys at a time failed to stop Clark from dominating games, and gaining this National recognition.
Speaking of National recognition, the UCLA Basketball team has overcome a weak start, and is now inching back onto the map. After whipping #1 Kentucky, and going to Gonzaga and beating the #20 Bulldogs in hostile enemy territory, then coming home to extend their winning streak to 5 games, the Bruins find themselves Nationally ranked as they get ready to face a highly-ranked North Carolina squad, in Brooklyn. Despite all the systemic cheating being exposed at UNC, they still haven’t been sanctioned yet, and are still allowed to play. They should be big favorites against the Bruins, but if UCLA can beat Kentucky, they have a chance against anyone. Sure, the Tarheel players don’t have the added academic hurdles of attending real classes, but neither do the Kentucky players, so maybe the Bruins can pull off another upset. Of course, it sure would help if Thomas Welsh (flu) and Prince Ali (knee) are available on Saturday. The Bruins barely survived without those two against Louisiana-Lafayette, blowing most of a 19-point lead. But survive they did, in this obvious trap game, despite missing two rotation players.
I didn’t think they had a prayer against Kentucky, and they proved me wrong. They won’t be overlooking Carolina, and if they put it all together like they did against UK, I wouldn’t be stunned this time if the Bruins come out on top. Surprised, sure, pleasantly, but not totally shocked. Now we all know what this team is capable of, and the sky’s the limit. And that includes the sky blue-clad Tarheels.