CGB Hall of Fame Semifinal: (3)Shane Vereen v. (7)Hardy Nickerson

Jed Jacobsohn

Our second semifinal of the weekend comes out of the Brick Mueller Region and features a couple of footballers going head to head. Running back Shane Vereen takes on Hardy Nickerson to see who moves on to the finals. Shane got here by beating Oski while Hardy upset Scott Fujita to secure his place. We'll take a closer look at both of them 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!

(3) Shane Vereen

Royrules22: "This guy carried the ball 40+ times against a top-10 Stanfurd team on the Farm and helped us pull of a monumental upset. That alone makes him deserve this."

TwistNHook: Shane Vereen might be the most interesting runner of the Tedford era. He always had Jahvid Best ahead of him, but in the tail end of 2009 and 2010 managed to show why there was no real drop off from Best to Vereen.

The first memory that immediately pops into my mind and, most likely the minds of all others, is Vereen's yeoman performance in the 2009 Big Game. A legendary performance.

Rushing No Gain Loss Net TD Lg Avg
-------------------------------------------------
Vereen, Shane 42 199 6 193 3 36 4.6


Watching the game in person, you didn't really have an opportunity to reflect on how amazing a day Vereen had. He took the ball every which way, including multiple Wildcat options. He scored 3 TDs and willed Cal to victory that day.

Berkelium97: My fondest memory of Shane Vereen will always be the legendary 2009 Big Game. But my first memory of him was the Michigan State game in '08. I was quite excited to see him play in his first game--particularly since he played high school a couple miles from where I grew up. In fact he was one of the highest recruited players ever to come out of Valencia High School, so I was really looking forward to seeing him hit the field. Anyway, back to 2008. Throughout the second half of the game, it seemed like Cal was never quite able to put the game away. With just under 5 minutes to go, Michigan State once again made it a one-possession game. Best returned the kickoff, so Vereen was the RB sent out for Cal's play on offense. I remember thinking that all we had to do was burn the clock. A five-minute drive would seal the game and certainly seemed possible. Vereen, of course, had other plans. He didn't burn the clock. Instead, he burned the entire Michigan State defense with an 81-yard run that sealed the victory. It was clear after that day that we had a lightning and lightning combination at running back--two guys who were capable of breaking free on any given run.

Four weeks later Vereen gave us a first glimpse of his incredible durability--a trait we often felt was lacking in Best. Against ASU Vereen ran the ball 27 times and caught 5 passes. In his entire career at Cal Best never topped 27 carries. Vereen did it in his first start and kept the offense chugging along. Vereen was an excellent complement to Best because he could take a pounding and still churn out yards. The Best-Vereen tandem might have been the best of the Tedford era, thanks to the unique combination of skills they had.

Solarise: Shane Vereen off the field is just as impressive as his accomplishments on the field. He spent a summer interning at CSN Bay Area and earned lauded praise for his maturity and work ethic:

"It's remarkable. He's just Shane to us," CSN Bay Area news executive Doug Brown said. "We don't treat him any differently than any other intern. Around here, he's just one of 20 interns we have that is willing to rip scripts and all the other stuff that interns are supposed to be doing." The fact that Vereen was interested in an internship says a lot about his perspective. He is expected to have an NFL career someday, whether he leaves Cal after this season as a junior or waits until the 2012 draft. But Vereen says he wants his life to be about more than football, and broadcasting is something that has always interested him. His father, Henry, works in the television industry as a video engineer.

"I understand that football is just one part of my life," Vereen said. "When that is all said and done, I'm not going to sit at home and do nothing. Anything can happen. You can get hurt anytime. It's good to have options, especially an option that I've been interested in for a long time." One of the highlights of Vereen's internship so far was holding the microphone for a news conference with San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom during an event to kick off the World Cup. He returned to the newsroom and worked with producers to put the story together, just like a regular field reporter.

More than a star player on the field, Shane Vereen was the epitome of a Cal student athlete.

Shane's gone on to the NFL and has had a nice couple of years with the New England Patriots, even delivering a highlight reel run against the Houston Texans and developing from a role player to a vital part of the rushing attack.

(7) Hardy Nickerson

From the Cal Hall of Fame writeup:

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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