The California Golden Bears are likely sending at least one player into the College Football Hall of Fame via the class of 2021. Announced this week, the Bears saw former players Ron Rivera and Tony Gonzalez, both of whom went onto even more success in the NFL, be selected to the ballot for the class of 2021.
Congratulations are in order, for sure, but also these two are certainly some of the more decorated athletes of their time and certainly deserving of such an honor.
Gonzalez played for the Bears from 1994-1996 when he played for both the football and basketball programs. He finished his Cal receiving career with 1,302 yards and eight touchdowns but was a tremendous three-down tight end. He also averaged 6.4 points per game on the hard court with another 4.3 rebounds per game to his credit.
He was a First-Team All-Pac-10 selection in 1996 and a consensus All-American that same year. He was selected with the 13th pick of the first round in the 1997 NFL Draft and went on to have arguably the most decorated NFL career from a tight end in history.
Gonzalez was a 14-time Pro Bowl selection, a six-time First-Team All-Pro, a four-time Second-Team All-Pro, led the entire NFL in receptions in 2004, an NFL All-Decades Team selection and was named to the NFL 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2019 after finishing his career with 1,325 receptions for 15,127 yards and 111 touchdowns.
Rivera, the current head coach of the Washington Redskins, led the Bears in tackles in each of his three seasons from 1981-83. He was a consensus All-American in 1983 and also earned Pac-10’s Defensive Player of the Year honors that same year. He won the Pop Warner Trophy and eventually won the MVP of the East-West Shrine Game. Rivera finished his Cal career as the all-time leader in sacks and tackles at the time of his departure to the NFL via the second round, Pick 44 of the 1984 NFL Draft.
Rivera played nine seasons with the Chicago Bears from 1984-1992 and won Super Bowl XX with the team. His success continued after he retired from playing as he is a two-time AP NFL Coach of the Year during his time with the Carolina Panthers and took his new post with the Redskins earlier this offseason. He has a current NFL head coaching record of 76-63-1.
It’s very likely that both Gonzalez and Rivera could make the Hall of Fame this year, though it’s an incredibly loaded group of former players named on the ballot. Either way, congratulations are in order and we certainly should see at least of these two go on to be enshrined for the class of 2021!