IT IS THE FINALS! We've already inducted Alex Morgan and Carli Lloyd into the CGB HoF 2013 Class and now it is time to add in another inductee. This matchup is the final one out of the Brick Mueller Region and features a recent fan favorite in Jorge Gutierrez taking on a past fan favorite in Hardy Nickerson. Jorge got here by beating out Stu Gordon while Hardy arrived via a win over Shane Vereen. How one is supposed to choose between these two Cal greats is anyone's guess, but as always, the voting will end at noon on Friday. You can take a look at the whole bracket here and learn more about both guys below. GO BEARS!
I'm pretty sure I speak for more than just myself when I say that Jorge is one of my favorite Cal athletes to watch, not only in the past few years, but also in my lifetime. I always felt like no matter whom we were playing or how the game was going, as long as Jorge was there we had a chance. I knew that he would never quit and would be right there to take a charge, dive on the floor for a loose ball, or hit a huge shot at the buzzer. Simply put, he was an exciting player and one that embodied everything that Cal athletics represents. It was a privilege to watch him play and I'm glad he was a Golden Bear.
When we first watched Gutierrez, it was hard not to love him. Jorge was just a high energy bundle that wasn't terribly focused, but it always seemed to spark the team when he was really able to get into it. Here was a guy who struggled to dribble, struggled to pass, struggled to shoot, and there he was locking down James Harden, spearheading a double digit comeback against the Furd, dunking and throwing an and-one layup high in the air to clinch a Pac-10 title.
Love does funny things to you. It makes you forget about turnover rates and field goal percentage and free throw rate because numbers be damned, watching Jorge was a joy. You discard those things because you like to imagine you can play with that sort of wild desperation, put that much effort into something you love that much. With that type of effort, that type of confidence, and just enough skill, anything is possible.
I've watched Cal basketball seriously for four years, and having Jorge be part of those experiences made it not just worthwhile, but meaningful. Watching almost every big momentum-changing steal, every forced turnover; every grimace; every sell of a call, every race he made toward a basketball regardless of what might be in the way, every time he went to the ground and we held our breath, until we realized it was Jorge and he'd be up in thirty seconds because that's who he was, every little inch he refused to give to his opponent, every chestbump from an inspired teammate, every spontaneous standing ovation we gave him for some random Jorge thing he'd do, every little thing he did do that we thought he couldn't do--those moments added up.
The first recruit signed by head coach Mike Montgomery at Cal (mid-May 2008), Gutierrez is a versatile guard who can play several positions on the court ... proved to be an invaluable reserve coming off the bench ... consistently one of the hardest-working players whenever he's on the court ... named the team's Defensive Player of the Year last season.
Senior guard Jorge Gutierrez, the heart and soul of a Cal team that chased the conference championship until the final day of the season, became the first player named Pac-12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year on Monday.
"Jorge just wins, and he has done that for us for four years," Cal coach Mike Montgomery said. "Coaches appreciate that part of it, without getting stuck on numbers or the spectacular athleticism. I'm not trading Jorge for anybody."
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.
Who gets the honor of being inducted into the CGB Hall of Fame in 2013?
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