(3) Reshanda Gray
There's a reason that the dynamic duo of Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray are known as "Corn Flakes and Milk". The two Cal Women's Basketball legends left such an impact on the program over their collegiate careers, which have been so intertwined that it has never been exactly made clear which one is Corn Flakes and which one is Milk.
The greatest praise of all for Gray has to come from Boyd herself:
"She understands me and I understand her," Boyd said of Gray. "We watch each other's games, and we connect with our passes. I don't really know why are so in sync. It's probably because off the court, we are so close and talk about everything."
"[Winning the Pac-12 title] would be amazing to experience, especially with [Reshanda], who is someone that I have been with my entire college experience," Boyd said. "She has helped me with my success, and I have helped her with hers. To do both be invited to the draft and to continue our careers would be fantastic."
But Gray's story, and why she has meant to much to the Women's Basketball program and to Cal as a whole. Alaina Getzenberg of the Daily Californian explains in this great feature, "We Gon' Be Alright".
Gray's mother and father slept in the living room of the small apartment, while Gray and her six siblings slept in the lone bedroom. They shared everything they had with each other, from clothes to space on the floor.
Some of Gray's brothers spent time in a gang, often coming home late. Gray learned to fight from her three older brothers, something she credits as only making her tougher. But toughness wasn't the only thing Gray learned from her brothers, as the city's energy eventually started to steer her in the wrong direction.
"I was just hanging with the wrong crowd, thinking it was OK for me to do wrong things and just be defiant and talking back to adults and stuff like that," Gray says. "I think it definitely had a big influence, because where I lived, not many people make it, and not many positive things happen, so I was quick to really get caught up in all the negative thinking going on in the community."
To get through all the bad things surrounding her, Gray learned to take the best parts of every struggle and find happiness, no matter where it might come from. She knew nothing else. This was life. In her mind, nothing else could be expected from her because, unlike the people on TV, life was incredibly far from perfect.Her senior year has easily been the highlight of her college career, as she has proved how essential she is to the team's success.
"Here is a kid who has had a 3.0 every semester for the last four or five semesters. I think she's the poster child for everything that is right about intercollegiate athletics," says Cal head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. "She's going to graduate with a great GPA from Cal, and she's going to be a top draft pick in the WNBA. What else can you say?"
Now the girl who didn't want to even try basketball has been named the Pac-12 Player of the Year. She is a month away from the WNBA draft, where she is projected to go in the top five, and she's only two months away from dancing her way onto the graduation stage for her diploma.
Asked which day she is more looking forward to, Gray thinks for a second. And then she gives a huge smile: "You want me to be honest?"
"Getting a degree from a wonderful institution, that's really great," Gray says. "Not only has it become something for me, I (also) proved a lot of people wrong in my journey, which is sweeter."
(14) C.J. Anderson
Leland Wang encapsulates the story that is C.J. Anderson:
Though he's exploded in the past few weeks as an NFL superstar, the journey of Denver Broncos RB C.J. Anderson has not been an easy one. Throughout his whole career, he has encountered roadblocks that attempted to block him from achieving his dreams, but a great article by Jeff Farudo at his career shows the resolve that helped fuel his drive and keep him pushing for his goals. Anderson's fight can be explained by one simple quote: "Dreams don't die until you decide to give up on them."
The first hurdles came in high school, where he struggled with academics; meeting philosophy teacher Amir Sabzevary at Laney College helped him turn everything around.
Anderson said[,] "I'd sit there and soak up everything [from Sabzevary]. He helped me a lot."
Sabzevary can't recall in which class Anderson first showed up, but he said an easy connection developed.
"He just felt comfortable," Sabzevary said. "He'd come and sit in my classes and in my office."
"He was very outspoken, very passionate. The same passion he has on the football field, he kind of brought into the classroom. Or maybe vice-versa."
Beyond being a great student, Anderson left Laney to head to Cal as a great person.
"He's certainly one of those characters that deep down, no matter how big he makes it, that humility will never leave him."
Sabzevary is excited for Anderson's success in the NFL and recalls with a laugh a promise his former student made.
"He told me if he ever makes it, he's going to buy me a brand new car," Sabzevary said. "I'm still waiting for that car."
In his two seasons at Cal, Anderson split carries with Isi Sofele and Brendan Bigelow, only officially starting two games. He was not drafted and instead chose to sign with the Denver Broncos despite the talent they drafted that year and the possibility they'd focus on their passing game due to the skill of QB Peyton Manning. Though some questioned Anderson's decision, I doubt many are questioning it now considering Anderson's breakout season.
Twenty months later, the Broncos and Anderson couldn't be happier. Of those 23 running backs drafted in 2013, Anderson has rushed for more yards than all but Le'Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Eddie Lacy of the Green Bay Packers.
Given a chance to become the feature back after injuries to Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman, Anderson has helped the Broncos create the balance needed to keep defenses from targeting Manning.
The run started on the heels of a three-touchdown defeat at New England on Nov. 2. Playing the following week in front of family and friends in Oakland, Anderson rushed for 90 yards and added 73 more yards in receptions during a 41-17 victory over the Raiders. He scored his first NFL touchdown in that game on a 51-yard pass from Manning.
"I cried pretty much all the way home," said Neva Craig, who raised Anderson and his two brothers as a single mom.
Over the past eight games, Anderson has become a weapon for the Broncos with over 1000 rushing and receiving yards. He has evolved into a complement for Manning, if not more considering their game against Buffalo where Manning did not throw a single TD pass--for the first time in 52 games--but Anderson saved the day with three rushing touchdowns. Manning and the Broncos media, in turn, have become quite the fans of our Golden Bear:
"C.J.'s been awesome the last couple games," Manning told reporters after the Kansas City game. "I kind of like to watch him."
Columnist Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post suggested the 5-foot-8, 224-pound Anderson could be the Broncos' MVP over the second half of the season.
"He gives the fancy-pants Broncos an edge, a needed dose of mean and a different way to win when Peyton is less than perfect," Kiszla wrote.
Farudo's article has got a lot more great info on Anderson's story--including quotes from his coaches at high school and Laney and beloved Bear Ron Gould--so I suggest you give it a read. And if you haven't yet, then check out our two-part interview with Anderson wayyyy back in 2011 (part 1 and 2).