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It is the final weekend of the second round of the CGB Hall of Fame and kicking things off we have a matchup out of the Brick Mueller Region that features a couple of defensive football stars in Scott Fujita and Hardy Nickerson. Scott advanced here by taking out Geoff McArthur in the narrowest of margins while Hardy took out Joe Igber in a close vote as well. We'll take a look at both candidates and then you can cast your vote to decide who moves on. You can take a look at the whole bracket here and voting will end Friday at noon. GO BEARS!
Coming out of high school, Scott Fujita was not seen as a Division I college football player - not one deserving of a football scholarship anyway. Some fifteen years later, one looks back at Fujita's career and sees not only a Division I football career at Cal, but a long NFL career and a Super Bowl ring with the New Orleans Saints.
Fujita redshirted his freshman year, but not before blowing away coaches in his first camp by helping out the injury-plagued Bears at safety even though both of his hands were clubbed up with tape-one because it was broken, the other because of a nasty gash. The Bears gave him a scholarship the next spring, and he added 20 pounds to his 6'5" frame while switching from safety to linebacker. But as a sophomore in 1999, he was plagued by nerve stingers in his neck. Following the season, he had career-threatening surgery that put him in the ICU for three days and a neck halo for a week. That was March. By August, he was cracking skulls again in live practice drills. Two seasons later, he was among Cal's leading tacklers. "I call it Pat Tillman syndrome," says former Cal defensive coordinator Lyle Setencich, now at Texas Tech. "There are a few players you come across who give their heart and soul to the game. That's Pat Tillman, and that's Scott Fujita.
He was suspended for his alleged role in the Saints bounty scandal, a suspension that was later overturned for lack of sufficient evidence. After leaving the Saints he signed and played with the Cleveland Browns for 2 years before being placed on injured reserve in 2012 for a neck injury. He recently retired.
For three straight seasons from 1983-85, Nickerson led the Golden Bears in tackles and was voted the team's Most Valuable Player. A first team All-Pac-10 selection as a senior, he reeled off tackle totals of 141 in 1984, 167 in 1985 and 132 in 1986. His 167 stops as a junior remains a Cal single season record, while his 501 career tackles rank second behind David Ortega's 525 in school history.
He went on to play in the NFL for 16 years (primarily for the Steelers and Bucs), where he was a five-time pro bowler, and was named to the 1990s all-decade second team. He is now a coach at Bishop O'Dowd, where his twins (boy/girl) go to school. I am hoping to see him on the Cal staff sometime soon.
Nickerson's son, Hardy Jr., is a highly touted linebacker whom Cal is recruiting. (Ed note: Since this was written Hardy Jr is indeed a Golden Bear and is expected to be a force in the linebacker corps for the next few years)
The elder Nickerson was a member of the 1986 Cal team, which defeated heavily favored Stanfurd 17-11 in one of the biggest upsets in Big Game history. The 1986 Big Game was Joe Kapp's last game as Cal coach.
And of course he now roots on Junior as HN Jr. seeks to fill some very large shoes at the same linebacker position.
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