Morrell Osling Jr. had not purchased a game program in years. He quit sometime during his son’s freshman season at UCLA, but during a harsh heatwave before the first game of Mo Osling III’s sixth and senior year of college, one proud parent just wanted to celebrate and document another step in his child’s life .
So Osling approached the seller of the glossy magazines and bought one. He recognized the cover boy immediately.
“Wow,” he thought to himself as he gazed at his son alongside linebacker Bo Calvert on the front of the show. “There’s a reason we went through everything.”
The patience of the Osling family is finally paying off after six years, two head coaches and three different defensive positions. Mo Osling III is in his first year as a full-time starter, leads UCLA No. 12 with 52 tackles and is on track to earn his master’s degree, having already completed his bachelor’s degree.
With added entitlement from the pandemic, Osling is one of four players remaining on UCLA’s roster from Jim Mora’s final recruit class. Three players from the original group play in the NFL. Nine grantees transferred or left the program for other reasons, many early in the transition from Mora to Chip Kelly.
Osling had many chances to join the Exodus. First it was after the first season under Kelly when his playing time dropped to 10 from all 13 games as a freshman. He reunited with his father after playing just four games as a junior.
Let’s hold on, they decided.
“I just don’t like running from my problems,” said Osling, who started in three combined games in 2020 and 2021. “I like to face them face to face.”
Osling is now showing his attacking mentality as UCLA’s start-free safety. He set career highs in tackles in back-to-back games against Utah (10 tackles) and Oregon. His 15 stops against the Ducks was the most for a UCLA defenseman since Adarius Pickett had 16 against Washington in 2018.
The last line of defense, Osling prides himself on his confident tackles and ability to communicate with his teammates. Though he’s become a star on defense, he’s never strayed far from his roots as a quarterback.
The former three-star contender received his first scholarship offers from Antelope Valley High as an options quarterback. Always the most athletic boy on his youth football teams, Osling started playing quarterback at the age of 7 while his father was coaching him.
Osling could throw the ball a mile, run it and process the defense quickly, said Jermaine Lewis, then Antelope Valley’s offensive coordinator. Although “Little Mo” started out as quarterback, he didn’t shy away from playing defense for Antelope Valley.
“We’re built a little differently out here,” said Lewis, a former UCLA running back. “We’re not blessed with numbers, so it’s a lot of Iron Man football.”
Osling gained more than 3,400 career all-purpose yards in three varsity seasons as Antelope Valley won 24-12 in his three varsity seasons. Osling started out as quarterback for two years, but he and the staff knew it wasn’t his “money-making position,” Lewis said.
When the Power Five colleges first began inquiring about the lanky, 6-foot-2 prospect as a defensive player, Osling switched to wide receiver on offense and started defensively as a senior. With the game tape more defensive, offers started rolling in.
All of Osling’s Pac-12 bids — Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State and UCLA — came as defensive backs. He signed early for the Buffaloes but turned around when the Bruins came into the picture. His father, a lifelong UCLA fan whose “only disappointment” was that his son was growing up a USC fan, was thrilled.
Osling was a sleeper in a stacked group of defenders that included US Army All-American Darnay Holmes, four-star nominees Elijah Gates and Jay Shaw, and former Mater Dei star Quentin Lake. Even after Kelly took over, the secondary school remained one of UCLA’s most talented position groups with holdovers like Pickett and Nate Meadors.
The deficit forced Osling to wait his turn.
“I feel like I could have been a starter a long time ago,” said Osling, who has played cornerback, nickel and safety for the Bruins. “But God, he works in his time. It is God’s speed.”
The Osling family, including Mo’s mother Eurimica, whom the defender honors with a portrait tattoo on his right forearm and has taught him his positivity, are enjoying the long-awaited moment.
Morrell, a former semi-pro who coached his son through high school, can hardly sleep the night before a game. He searches the internet for another photo to post on Instagram and regularly sends inspirational quotes to his son. Noticing Mo was on the schedule for the bowling green game, he held it up and told everyone at the tailgate, “That’s my son!”
Having pulled in tight before the game, Morrell finds his seat in the Rose Bowl early so he can watch his son warm up and announce Osling’s name as the starter. Recording the announcement on the big screen never gets old.
“It’s his last year, we’re winning, he’s playing well,” Morrell said, “it’s like, what more could you ask for?”
Lewis, another Antelope Valley graduate who played at Westwood with UCLA running backs coach Deshaun Foster, beams with pride knowing Osling is continuing the same path from Lancaster to UCLA. Osling was among the first to help build the recent pipeline from Antelope Valley to Division I colleges, including former UCLA tight end Moses Robinson-Carr and wide receiver Devon Williams, who went to USC and moved to Oregon.
When considering a transfer, Osling always thought he could have a bigger impact if he stayed at UCLA. He wanted to bring back victory like he did in Antelope Valley. Osling continues the legacy of defenders before him and wants to instill wisdom in such underclassmen as cornerbacks Devin Kirkwood and Jaylin Davies.
“Mo is great,” Kelly said. “Really everything you could want in a student athlete.”
As Osling’s days as a collegiate athlete come to an end, Morrell tries to focus on what his son can still achieve at UCLA. From one of the most anticipated rivalry games in years to a big bowl game, there’s still work to be done for the Bruins.
But with that settled, the longtime Dallas Cowboys fan is ready to bury his blue-white-silver for any professional team picking up his son. Whether it’s for Osling’s favorite Philadelphia Eagles or at a Canadian soccer game, Morrell will be in line to buy another game program.
https://www.latimes.com/sports/ucla/story/2022-11-04/ucla-football-mo-osling-starter-leading-tackler-chip-kelly UCLA’s Mo Osling III finally gets to start in his sixth season