Two of Cal's toughest defenders in Strawberry Canyon (one up front, one up back) go head-to-head in a battle for the Sweet 16. Which one deserves to move on? Cast your votes by noon on Friday!
Carter played for the California Golden Bears from 1996-2000. During his junior and senior years he was a unanimous All-Pac 10 Conference selection. In 2000 he won the Morris Trophy, awarded to the Pac 10’s top defensive lineman as voted on by the starting offensive lineman from the conference. In addition to being selected as the Golden Bears’ most valuable player, Carter was also a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, given to the nation’s top defensive player. Finished as the school’s all-time sacks leader.
When Fujita got to Cal as a 6-4, 195-pound safety who was the last man on the depth chart, his intensity on the practice field routinely perturbed his veteran teammates. "I was kind of the annoying, walk-on, ‘Scout Team All-American’ who irritated the old guys," Fujita explained. […] It was hard not to feel excluded, especially when everyone was lining up for training table and I wasn’t allowed to eat. Andre Carter would sneak me food all the time. He really took care of me in every way. He’s my brother from another mother."
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.
(Photo from The Daily Nathan)
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.
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.
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.