[We are looking back at some of the contributions of players leaving the Cal football team. We've looked at Cameron Jordan, Kevin Riley, Mike Mohamed, Shane Vereen, and now Chris Conte. Also, don't forget to check out our interview with Cameron Jordan. GO BEARS!]
TwistNHook: These are exciting times for all the NFL prospects. None more so than Chris Conte, who is creating some buzz for himself heading into the NFL draft at the end of this month.
Cal Safety Chris Conte has a private workout scheduled with the Seahawks (date TBD). Conte is another potentially targeted free safety that I suspect will be brought in and evaluated at both safety positions but looked at as a possible corner as well. I could be way off base, but given that cornerback is a big need spot for the Hawks and free safety is much less so with Earl Thomas being drafted last year, I don't know if the Hawks spend an mid round pick on another free safety. I suppose they could be considering him at strong safety as well although he'd have to gain at least 10-15 lbs to work there. Obviously, depth is key in the NFL and if Earl Thomas / Kam Chancellor / Lawyer Milloy / Whoever gets hurt a capable backup behind him will be important, but a guy like Conte could potentially play multiple spots.
The 6'2, 200lb Chris Conte was recruited and brought in to Cal as a big, physical cornerback out of high school. He played corner for the Golden Bears the first three years of his career there with little game time action, then switched to free safety his senior year where he excelled - earning First Team All Pac-10 Honors. He ended his college career with 157 tackles, 4 of them for a loss, 2 interceptions, 11 pass breakups, one fumble recovery, one forced fumble and one blocked kick for a TD. At the combine he recorded a 4.52 in the 40 and benched 225 18 times. He has a 35.5 in vert.
Hope that it all works out for Conte. What are your memories of Chris Conte?
LeonPowe: First, I thought he was going to be the next Jason Sehorn. I mean, let's be truthful here, white cornerbacks are just a very rare phenomenon in high level sports. I wish we could get beyond race in athletics, but Conte at cornerback is something that stands out, no matter how much we wish it didn't.
Another memory of mine was the whole controversy surrounding Conte's commitment to Cal. If memory serves me correctly, I think Conte originally committed to UCLAme. There were rumors of a supposed "silent commit" to Cal who was publicly committed at another school and it turned out this person was Conte. I believe when Conte was later interviewed about why he didn't want to publicly change his commitment he said something about how he knew or thought the UCLA coaches would react and he didn't want to have them on his back for the rest of the recruiting session. I always found that a bit interesting.
Kodiak: I remember being surprised that Conte would earn playing time as a true frosh. He took his lumps that year. Always around the ball in time to make a tackle, but never really in position to make a play while it was in the air. That didn't bother me because there's a long and proud tradition of young Cal CB's getting lit up like Xmas trees. I was somewhat disappointed to see this pattern continue for the next two years. And then the lights came on last year. Instead of a gangly two-foot DB (two feet away from making a difference), you had a smart, instinctive player who emerged as our best safety. Whether it was his choice or the coaching staff's, it makes you wonder what might have been had he been able to play safety for four years. I think he was underrated as an athlete - if anything, his style of play was to avoid risks and mistakes. He was good at being in position to staunch the bleeding, but not necessarily to make a game-breaking play. Until his senior year where I think he had both the confidence and the scheme to cut loose. In the right scheme, I could see him finding a spot in the NFL as a solid backup safety.
Solarise: The image of Conte's INT against Arizona is how I will remember Chris Conte. His combination of size & speed always intrigued me on the field. When Conte stepped in at CB in 2007 I was hoping for big things. Then seeing Conte getting burned consistently at nickelback in 2008 & 2009 had me question my original assumptions. Moving to safety in 2010 was perhaps the best football decision Conte & the coaches made. He was rarely out of position and turned in an All-Pac 10 performance. Conte had a good NFL Combine after the season too. I wish him nothing but the best at the next level.
TwistNHook: Where do you all see Chris Conte's career taking him?
Yellow Fever: The Eagles have brought him in for a visit, so it stands to reason that they might have interest in bringing him in as a contender for their starting job at SS next year. Like most non-blue chips with a ton of athletic ability, it seems like his lot in life next year will be to fortify some team's specials teams as a mid-round pick, with the potential to develop into a starter down the line if his performance warrants it. Much like Syd did this past year with the Broncos. It's hard to say whether or not he'll have the chops to become a regular starter, especially since the NFL is much more of a passing league and teams are more capable of isolating weak coverage defenders in secondaries (see this year's Dallas Cowboys), but like solarise said, I can see him being a third safety who plays more of a hybrid-LB role off the bat.