It's fitting to look at Ron Rivera with Texas A&M upcoming on the schedule, since Rivera will forever be defined (at least to our thinking) by the A&M game his senior year. With 1:20 left in that game, Cal and the Aggies were tied at 17 and Cal had the ball deep in A&M territory. On 4th and short, the Bears set up for an easy field goal attempt, and Randy Pratt knocked it through for a three-point lead and, apparently, the win. Then Joe Kapp lost his mind.
The Aggies had jumped offside, and for some reason Kapp took the points off the board to go for a touchdown. This was the precise moment when Old Blues looked at each other and realized that this coaching experiment would not work out. On the next snap from center Gale Gilbert lost the handle and A&M recovered the fumble at their own two yard line. What happened next was nothing short of a miracle to our fourteen-year old eyes.
A&M Coach Jackie Sherrill called a toss sweep - a dumb call deep in your own territory, but not quite Kapp-esque. The ball arrived to Hawkins at approximately the same time as Rivera, who was coming on a run blitz. Rivera was traveling a bit faster than the pigskin, and he knocked Hawkins backwards into the A&M end zone for an improbable safety - and the upset win for Cal.
Rivera had many more shining moments as Cal's best defender of the early 1980s. He was named team captain as a sophomore, and led the Golden Bears in tackles from 1981 to 1983. In 1983 he set a record that still stands with 26.5 tackles for loss including 13 sacks. For his efforts Rivera was named co-Defensive Player of the Year in the Pac 10 and was a consensus choice for All-America at linebacker. He was also the first Golden Bear to become a finalist for the Lombardi Award.
Rivera was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the 2nd round of the 1984 draft, and became the first Puerto Rican to play professional football. Following his retirement in 1992, Rivera entered the coaching ranks and is now the highly-regarded defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears.
And readers share some memories:
"Ron Rivera also had a hand in helping erase the dumbest coaching mistake in Cal history when he tackled a Texas A&M running back in the end zone scoring a safety, when coach Joe Kapp had taken 3 points off the board." ~LeonPowe
"I remember that game oh so well, even though I could only listen to it on the radio. It was the first game of the 1983 season, making it Cal's very next game after The Play. Cal had it won with the FG. Then there was a penalty, and Kapp decided to take the 3 points off the board and try for a TD. The next play, Cal fumbled. But then the next play, Rivera got us the safety. Cal wins! In Texas!" ~CalBear81
Jocelyn struck out 15 and one-hit Arizona, 2-1. And she didn't stop for a month straight. In the NCAA regionals she pitched every inning, had a 0.87 ERA, and Cal went 4-0. In the World Series the same thing happened: every inning, 4-0, 0.50 ERA, most outstanding player of the tournament. And again she one-hit Arizona, this time for the national title. It was Cal's first NCAA women's championship in any sport. "Winning was just so awesome," says Jocelyn. "We were unstoppable."
Incredible. Want to know what makes it even more than incredible?
HolmoePhobe: That Arizona game was one week after her sister was murdered... Read that whole Reilly SI piece. Check out some of the highlights from the title game where Forest outdueled Jennie Finch. And if you have some spare time, take a look at this story from the Collegian to find out how Forest has made the transition to pitching coach for Penn State softball. You've gotta feel for her.
After graduating from Cal, she competed professionally in the NPF while also conducting pitching and strength/conditioning seminars for young girls.
In her own words:
"Teach your kids how to be part of a bigger picture and a common goal. Teach them that their role, no matter the role, is important to the teams goal. Give them the tools to play their part. If you are a player pull your team together and remind them of their love for the game. Remind them that there's no better feeling than working together to win. Practice hard and support your teammates. Do the job you are given as best you can. Prepare with all of your effort for the time when your role is even bigger. And if you've already got a big role respect your teammate who is ready when you need her. Be champions. Respect each other, play for each other, win for each other.
When you do that, your future will take care of itself. "
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