The sole football v. football Elite 8 matchup! Today, we're looking at two defensive greats: Hardy Nickerson, linebacker extraordinaire and Deltha O'Neal, one man band. Mr. Big Game 99 Offense!
Who is going to enter the Hall Of Fame?
You can view the entire bracket here. Voting ends this Friday. So, go vote AND GO BEARS!
Deltha O'Neal (3)
O'Neal's NFL career is well known, but it might surprise some of you young ones how much of an impact he had with the Bears.
Tony Macaroni: What some may not know is that Deltha entered the program as a reserve tailback and got pushed into duty as a freshman when the other backs went down with injuries. He had a serious fumbling problem (I heard that Bobby Shaw encouraged him to carry a football around with him as he went to class). He fumbled the opening kickoff in the ‘96 Big Game, setting up the first of what seemed like 20 Stanfurd TD’s. But Holmoe eventually moved him to CB, and he was instantly a force to be reckoned with. He had eight (!) interceptions his senior year, four of which he returned for touchdowns. He was also a rediculous return man, his two return TDs accounting for Cal’s only points in the 1999 Big Game.dballisloose: And in that 1999 Big Game, it should be noted that Stanford was trying to kick AWAY from Deltha, absurdely so to the point where they would kick all but 2 out of bounds….the 2 that he fielded (and maybe the years are making me exagerate that he only fielded the 2) he took all the way, and those of us in the stands would prepare for the kicks with our thumbs and index fingers together in a triangle, cheering "Deltha, Deltha, Deltha".
I think Deltha may be the most impactful Cal player ever. Ever.
Kodiak: A converted running back, he might have had the had the best post-interception running ability of any Cal DB...well, ever. With our Holmoecaust offense being so woefully inept, Deltha was often our only real threat to score any points.
Deltha holds Cal records for most interceptions in a season (9), most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a season (4), most interceptions returned for a touchdown in a career (5), and is one of the 4 Cal players who has returned an interception 100 yards for a TD. Most of this took place in 1999, when O'Neal had an absolutely fantastic season that catapulted him into a first-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos.
O'Neal was the Pac-10 defensive player of the year in 1999. That he did it on a team that went 3-8 is remarkable.
Hardy Nickerson (4)
Scootie lays down the case for one of Cal's finest:
Hardy Nickerson was a badass linebacker from 1983-1986.
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.
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.