(4) Alexis Gray-Lawson
Video Bio: Alexis Gray-Lawson (via CalBearsWBB)
Alexis Gray-Lawson will be forever linked to Ashley Walker and Devanei Hampton, as those three together were the core of Cal's most successful stretch in the program's history. Walker and Hampton definitely had the star power as two of the premier post players in the Pac-10. Gray-Lawson was the team's quarterback-and its heart and soul.
(11) Keenan Allen
From our Remembering the Seniors post:
BlueandGold15: I grew up watching Desean and Jahvid and the other Cal stars of old, but Keenan will always hold a special place in my heart compared to them, because his time at Cal coincided with mine. Sure, he lacked the jaw-dropping physicality of Marshawn, and he certainly didn't have the gamebreaking nitrous tank that Desean or Jahvid did, but Keenan was really something special.
He was something special from the day he arrived on campus, when he was immediately switched to receiver, after being one of the best safety prospects in the nation.
He was something special from his first game, too. UC Davis never knew what hit them, as he rolled up over 150 all purpose yards and two scores to start off a remarkable career.
He was something special for the way he moved after the catch (especially for a guy his size), for the grace and ease with which the game came to him, for the subtle cuts and jukes for extra yards, for the way he almost always managed to catch throws that shouldn't have been, and he basically was the offense last season.
And yet, there will always be the lingering feeling that he could've been more too, if the Bears could have put some better talent around him. All due respect to Kevin Riley and Zach Maynard - the two main quarterbacks during Keenan's three years - but almost no one can deny that their play left a little to be desired. Keenan broke the all time reception record at Cal with those guys throwing to him. Who knows what could've been accomplished with a Barkley?
I probably share the same sentiment as most Cal fans in writing this, but if he drops out of the first round - and he is expected to - because of his lingering PCL injury and 40 time, some team will be getting a steal when they draft him. A prototypical NFL possession receiver that moves in space better than most of them? Sounds like a bargain to me.
Thanks for your time here, Keenan.
Ohio Bear: I am going to have bittersweet memories of Keenan Allen's time at Cal. First the sweet: those memories have everything to do with his skill and athleticism on the field. He was dynamic when he got his hands on the football in space. And he was a very good wide receiver, too, who was a go-to guy when you got down into the end zone. I will probably remember him most for his TD catch in the 2011 Big Game that served notice we would not lie down that day and for his game-winning catch in overtime at Colorado earlier that season. And who can forget the 90-yard TD catch and run against Washington that season? I will also remember his zigzagging TD against UC-Davis in his first collegiate game that showed us Cal fans that we had a really good talent wearing #21.
Unfortunately, I will also associate Allen with the decline of the Cal program that led to the ouster of Jeff Tedford as head coach. Don't misread me here: I am not blaming Allen for anything and I don't want to leave the impression that he was some sort of reason that Cal won only 15 games in his three seasons. Just saying that because he was one of Cal's best offensive players (if not THE best offensive player) during the last couple of seasons, I will inevitably think of the disappointing last three years Cal football when I think of him, just like I remember the horror of 2001 when I think of some of the guys who played on that team (e.g., Scott Fujita).
Ultimate Keenan Allen Highlights (via TheVikingsworld2011)
TheScientist019: I'm right with you OhioBear—that record-breaking TD at Washington was a great moment. Stuck in hostile territory surrounded by their fans, I remember the crowd getting so loud and riled up for Cal's offense to be facing a third-and-long with our backs against the goalpost. And suddenly, I remember the absolute silence as Allen caught the ball around midfield, charging into the endzone and into the record books. A personal memory of mine that won't be in any of the record books is the game vs. ASU in 2010. It started pouring rain and we had a comfortable lead, so the crowd had mostly emptied when Allen, using his insane instincts as a ballcarrier, returned a punt for six. It ended up getting called back for a penalty, but with the stands empty, I swear he pointed straight at me in celebration.
Overall, I'll remember Keenan Allen for his unnatural talents on the field. He was the definition of a playmaker as his vision and athleticism made him so dangerous with the ball in his hands; he was a perpetual threat to any defense and could keep us hanging in any game. He was a human highlight reel given his ability to catch any ball thrown in his general direction coupled with his ability to make defenders miss on his way to the endzone. And for all this, he was so highly regarded for his skills as a safety, leaving me to wonder just how good he could be on that side of the ball.
JahvidKnowsBest: Despite the fact that we didn't win as much as I would have liked during Keenan's time at Cal, I will always consider his time here special, as I do believe that he is the most dynamic receiver to have ever played here. His sophomore season was nothing short of incredible. Inconsistent QB play, inconsistent line play, and the kid still goes out and has 1300+ season. That's insane for a wide receiver. He was a joy to watch that year, and the other two years that he was here. I sincerely hope that he is able to go in the first round--I think it does wonders for our program when we have guys being drafted that high. I think he will be able to have a long and prosperous NFL career as long as he is able to recover from that PCL properly.
LeonPowe: Wait Desean and Marshawn are STARS OF OLD? Ugh.
I think Allen was one of the 5 most gifted players in the Tedford era (Marshawn, Jahvid, Desean and ARod) and he certainly put up the numbers to prove it. Mostly I'm going to remember him for his smooth, powerful running, great hands, amazing body control and ability to just hold off defensive backs and make the most amazing catches. I think KA21's memory is going to be unfairly dinged for perceptions around his recruitment (when I say recruitment I'm referring to a lot of people talking about him and Zach Maynard being a package deal and the perceived requirement that his brother be the starting qb), but as I said, I think that's patently unfair. The dude played hard and his gifts were great. I wish him nothing but the best in the NFL. If you pay attention to his instagram (@keenan21allen) account, he has a lot of love for Cal too.
Cal Football: Keenan Allen - WR Highlights 2010-2011 (via calbearsgobig)
Kodiak: Taken simply in a vacuum, he was a unique athlete who would put up serious numbers despite playing with a lousy QB, porous Oline, and dysfunctional offense. I suppose the cynical flip side is that he was the first (only?) and 2nd read the last two years. Then again, the whole stadium knew that and he still managed to produce. From what I read and saw in interviews, he seemed to work hard, respected his coaches, and was a good teammate. Like OhioBear mentioned, it's hard not to think of Keenan Allen without feeling sad. He'll always remind me of the twilight of the Tedford era. Who knows if any of those recruitment/playing time conspiracy theories are true or not. In some ways, the whole mess was emblematic of Tedford losing his way. Either there was some fire behind the smoke, and that's just sad, or there wasn't and the fact that the question still kept coming up spoke to a lack of top-down leadership. Fair or otherwise, I just won't have the same fondness for KA as I will for guys like Sofele and CJ Anderson.
Unclesam22: I echo pretty much what everyone above has said. KA21 came in as a special talent, showed flashes of brilliance and was only limited by poor QB play. But when he was on and doing well, man, he was incredible. The Tedford twilight, Maynard QB thing and all that other stuff will hopefully fade from our collective memories as we get some time and distance from them and instead we'll remember Keenan for what he is, an incredibly gifted athlete that gave us great moments on the field and was and is an outstanding Golden Bear!