UPDATE 4/26 - I've added in the video "A Decade of Excellence" that was shown (mid-post)
Is it September 1st yet??? A great day of Cal football on Saturday! First we had the Spring game, which was a lot of fun. Excited that it looks like this will be a part of Cal football going forward! Almost 10,000 people in Edwards Stadium to watch (in comparison, barely 5K turned out to watch Stanford's Spring Game... can you say fair weather?)
And then Saturday night I was fortunate to be able to attend the 1st Annual Cal Football Gala. This was held in the Simpson Center and was a GREAT event. I would highly recommend attending one in the future. I mean, where else will you get to hear the Chancellor talk trash about Stanford (more on that later).
This post has a little of everything... Stanford mocking at the highest (Chancellor) and lowest (me) levels! Lots of photos of current Cal players and Cal greats now in the NFL... Warning!!! Be prepared to drink... because after the jump, lots of photos and name dropping will follow. After the jump, enjoy, but please, read responsibly.
Let's get this going with a little compare and contrast...Here is more proof, as if you need it, of just who rules the college football scene in Northern California.
A throng of excited fans cheering on their beloved Cal Bears in the Spring Game!
A handful of fans show up for Stanford Spring game, filling about
a third 1/2 of the high school stadium's seats (thanks to Kyle Bonagura of cbssports.com for correction)
via Kyle Bonagura
It was a great Saturday in Edwards Stadium and you can read more about it all over this wonderful site! Cal Athletics even did a write-up of the event and it's one of the best Press Releases I've seen from them!
At the invitation of California Alumni Association Executive Director Jefferson Coombs, I attended the First Annual Cal Football Gala. Absolute kudos to all of those who helped with the event. It was first rate! And I know you've heard others report on this too, but what a fantastic facility the Simpson Center for Student Athlete High Performance is. Make a point of getting a tour, you will not be sorry!
The evening was structured like what Cal players would go through for practice. We checked in with the equipment manager, got ready in the player's lounge, had a team meeting etc... A terrific format!
All guests were greeted by Cal players. In our case, Zach Kline. I mentioned that he looked very excited about his TD and how it felt to be playing in front of me. "Yeah, I was pretty excited about throwing that, I guess I ran down to the end zone pretty fast! Man, I thought the crowd and atmosphere was awesome. I can't wait to get into Memorial and in front of all the fans!" He said all that through a beaming smile. Now, every year we joke that it seems college students are getting younger and younger. In Zach's case it's true; he should still be in high school!
Once inside we received our "field passes" and were then met by Nick Forbes who gave us a tour of some of the meeting rooms.
Here is Nick, who looks like he's getting ready for the gun show, with Jefferson who looks like he's about to join the cast of Mad Men! For me the most interesting comment from Nick: "You know, having everything in one place like this in the Simpson Center probably saves an hour a day, which is huge as I've got a ton of school work to do. This is going to help all of us in every aspect of being a Cal student!" Don't you love hearing that!
We also passed really well done displays of Cal history... I particularly liked this photo - that was a GREAT day. Note to Coach Tedford, The Axe needs to come back to Berkeley!
And this panorama of Cal players in the NFL is soooo cool:
Next, Nick handed us off to the equipment folks where we got a little schwag bag... and then into the locker room / player lounge. It is really nice. But not in an over-the-top-embarrassingly-nouveau-riche way like Oregon... It's top rate. Here are a bunch of donors, coaches, admin and former Cal players mingling...
Cal invited back a bunch of the players now in the NFL. There was Mike Gibson (who I stunningly didn't get a photo of... sorry FireS), Alex Mack, Brian de la Puente, Mike Mohamed, Cam Jordon... I feel like I might be forgetting someone... Here is Alex Mack and Quinn Tedford (more on Alex later).
I got a chance to chat with one of my all time favorites, Mike Mohamed! Of course Mike is responsible for one of my all time favorite Cal moments and second favorite Big Game Moment of all time, which you can see here. What an outstanding guy he is. What I loved is how much he loved that the fans rushed the field AT Stanford Stadium.
"The best part of that man was seeing all of our fans rush the field! I've never seen that before; visiting fans taking over the other stadium. It was incredible being down on the field!"
Sometimes when people do something great they want to put in their past because they don't want to be defined as that. I told him to embrace it. He provided a moment that legions of Cal fans will be remembering from here on out!
After that it was off to the team meeting room. You can see how big it is. We were told that given the size of many of the players, the chairs are intentionally larger than normal chairs! We watched one of the motivational films they make for the team for each game and got all fired up!!
Oh, and just before he sent us all out, Coach Tedford returned to the podium and said "Let me assure you I don't give talks to the team with a glass of wine in my hand." Not sure if the pros in the room can confirm it's the same in the NFL!
Then it was off to the High Performance Zone! WOW is this awesome!!! You just want to get in there and start working out! (not you Kod). We were greeted by Cal players including Allan Bridgford, Ross Bostock and Eric Stevens. Great
kids young men!
Avery Sebastian gave us rundown on what a typical workout is like. "It's great to have this. Before in the old space we would have to wait in line to train on equipment, we would get in each others' way... this is the best I have seen." He also gave us a quick update on his health as he is recovering from a hamstring injury. He'll be fine. By the way, he's also looking for an apartment in Berkeley so if any of you landlord types have anything...
Finally it was time for more drinks (goooood open bar), dinner and mingling....
Cal and NFL great Alex Mack talks with Coach Michalzcik. Both are awesome guys. I'm telling you, Coach M is exactly who you want helping to coach our players, both on the field and in life. I let him know how great it is to have him back in Berkeley and that we all hope he is here a long time.
Here is an aging alum with New Orleans Saints LB Cam Jordan. I include this because look at the size of his hands... he could crush me with his one hand! Cam was wondering about the best po-boy in New Orleans... I say Domilise's, Sandy Barbour says Jazzfest Crawfish bread is best!
Soon to be NFL great Mychal Kendricks was there... and I'm calling it right now (despite what Cugel says) this guy is going to go first round!! Mychal is just another great guy, the personification for what we want in Cal athletes. I'll be saying this when I am an old man, but I should have had him speak at the Bonfire Rally! I just always feel like Coach Tedford has a cab with the meter running outside! Mychal gave me some great dirt on what it was like living with Mike Mohamed, but I think I'll have to keep that off the internets! Three words... remote control issues!
Among the NFLers there was Brian de la Puente. Yet another great guy (I know, I know). Brian's making an impact with the Saints now - I wonder if he and Cam compare po-boy recommendations! By the way, one of the fun parts of these events is getting to take photos with so many really big people! Brian was effusive. That's right, I said effusive to describe a person who is much much larger than I am.
"This place is incredible. The new Memorial stadium and Simpson center are awesome! And I can't wait to see a finished product! Not only are they state of the art training facilities, it is an earthquake safe facility for the future of CAL athletics. Man I wish we had this when I was here!!"
It was time for dinner and speeches... Roxy did an awesome job as MC, as you would expect. Sandy (I can't believe I didn't get a photo) was resplendent in a black ensemble with gold trim... I shouted out "Sandy, who are you wearing?" but I didn't get an answer. She gave a great talk about Memorial, the Simpson Center and Coach Tedford. With that she brought up Coach Tedford who talked about the first game in 2002 when almost no one was in Memorial... what 2004 was like, the tree-sitters (NOOOOO) and how excited everyone is about coming home to Memorial. He also touched on the importance of the education the players are receiving which led to the introduction of Alex Mack.
As all of you should know, Alex Mack won the Draddy award (now the Campbell Trophy) his senior year in 2008. This is the Academic Heisman given to the most outstanding scholar in college football. And if you're wondering, no Stanford player has ever won that (of course a certain Stanford player doesn't know the difference between a spiral ramp and a spiral staircase...). Alex gave a great talk, about how he was recruited by Stanford and Northwestern, and then gave one of my two favorite lines of the night "I came to Cal because of the academics!"
The Chancellor and Mrs. Birgeneau where there. The Chancellor gave a speech that included my other favorite line of the night: "There's Berkelium, Seborgium... but still NO stanfordium!!" And I think the Chancellor talking smack about Stanford is as good a place as any to bring this report to an end.
Thanks again to everyone who was responsible for putting this together. It was just terrific. Thanks to Jefferson for inviting me. Thanks to our AD for challenging me to, but not following through on a race, thus saving me from injuring myself again (like the last time we raced....). Thanks to all the current and former players that were there who simply could not have been more awesome. I know other schools have solid student athletes, but ours are simply the best! Thanks to the coaches who were great to talk to... Oops, the band is playing me off here... GO BEARS!!!