(7) Syd'Quan Thompspn
SydQuan Thompson 2008 Highlights (via ronenlish1)
My first memories of Syd'Quan Thompson was his performance against Tennessee. Most Cal fans will remember it wasn't good. Tennessee was scoring touchdowns on him. The aftermath of his performance was devastating. People were ripping him left and right saying how bad he sucks and how he shouldn't be playing. But what a lot of those people didn't realize was that Syd's problems against Tennessee were because he was wearing a cast on one of his wrists and he couldn't tackle. The problems weren't that he was blowing coverages. And if my memory serves me correctly, I don't think Tennessee really scored a touchdown over Syd; their touchdowns came from underneath passes where their WRs sort of ran over Syd's one handed attempts to pull them down. In other words, Syd's problems weren't really his coverage abilities. I'm not sure many Cal fans realized that though.
In my eyes, when I saw Syd see his first real reps in practice and on the field in 2006, my opinion was that Syd was a solid practice player. He covered his men well, and was around the ball when it was headed in his direction. He seemed like a solid player with a pretty good chance at being a great CB. A lot of Cal fans thought to the contrary though.
I had no idea Syd'Quan Thompson would be as good as he is today but I got my first hint that he might be this good at the 2006 Cal Football Awards banquet. At that banquet Daymeion Hughes (now Dante Hughes) won one of the defensive player awards.
I've talked about this many times before, but when somebody really good at their trade points out that someone else can be just as good or even better, you better listen. Those that are some of the best at their trade know what it takes to become the best, and who has what it comes to be the best. In 2006, Dante Hughes was one of the best CBs in the nation. He knew what it takes to get there, and he saw that Syd'Quan Thompson had it too.
When he took the stage to accept his award, he went through the usual thanks to family, coaches, and friends. Then he did something a little different. He went on to encourage the younger CBs to keep at it, practice hard, and don't give up. He said they could be as good as him. Then he singled out Syd'Quan Thompson. He said to Syd, in front of the entire banquet, that Syd could be better than him. He said it many times. "Syd, you can be better than me." He said it with conviction. He knew it.
(10) Anthony Ervin
Anthony Ervin (California) (via SwimmingWorldSPI)
LEastCoastBears gives us tons of good info from the Calympics post on Anythony:
The feel good story of the US Swim trial, Anthony Ervin is again an Olympian. After winning a gold medal in the 50 freestyle at the 2000 Olympics, Tony (his preferred name to friends) retired in 2003 (after the end of his Cal career) when he was 22 years old to explore "other interests".
After joining a rock band in New York and various other youthful exploits (that some articles try to make a bigger deal than others), he eventually found himself teaching swimming to kids in both New York City and Oakland. Last year he began training again, and qualified for London by finishing second in the 50 free (by narrowly edging out fellow Cal bear, Nathan Adrian). Between his colorful sleeve tattoos and a more slender body type, Anthony stands out in the pool.
Also of note, Anthony auctioned off his 2000 Olympic gold medal on eBay to aid survivors of the 2004 tsunami. Anthony did eventual finish his Cal degree in English in 2010 and is now currently in the Cal graduate program for sport, culture and education.
- Event: 50 freestyle
- 2nd time Olympian (In Sydney 2000 Olympics won gold in 50 Free and silver in 4x100 Free relay)
- Cal career: 1999-2002
- A great sentimental comeback story (which NBC will surely milk in the Olympics), Anthony won a gold back in 2000 and proceed to take almost a decade off from swimming. After teaching kids to swim an year ago, Ervin decided to make a comeback and was able to finish second in 50 Free (narrowly edging out Nathan Adrian by 8/100th of a second).
Anthony's slightly different training method/mentality is nicely explained in this USA Swimming article here. Interestingly, the article also conjectured about the success of Cal swimming:
Cal Swimming has long been at the forefront of alternative training approaches. Which could explain why they are – and have been -- so successful. Their two most individualistic and strongest personalities, Ervin and 29-year-old Natalie Coughlin, are also two of the sports most inventive, innovative thinkers. They tinker. They ask. They learn. They reflect. It’s no secret they both are still involved in the sport at an age once considered "ancient."
Read more about Anthony in this SFGate article here.
Grantland has the following interesting short blurb about him:
Enigmatic 31-year-old who won gold and silver in Sydney, retired from swimming in 2003 at age 22, and sold his gold medal to raise money for the Indian Ocean tsunami relief. (Lost his silver medal during his notoriously nomadic travels.) Returned to competition last year. Has such poor eyesight that a competitor had to tell him he had qualified; when Brendan Hansen congratulated him afterward he squinted and responded, "Who is that?" Speaks in full paragraphs, but also says things like "I just want to keep this fun train chugging."