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Hail to the 2018 football seniors

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Thank you to 23 Golden Bears who were seniors in 2018.

California v USC Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Leland: With the California Golden Bears set to start 2019 spring football on Monday, let’s close the books on the 2018 season by saying farewell and thank you to all of our 2018 seniors.

Here’s the list of seniors whose last year was 2018.

  • Jake Ashton
  • Rusty Becker
  • Kamryn Bennett
  • Ian Bunting
  • Hiroaki Endo
  • Chase Forrest
  • Alex Funches
  • Ray Hudson
  • Jordan Kunaszyk
  • Patrick Laird
  • Malik McMorris
  • Patrick Mekari
  • Justin Norbeck
  • Chibuzo Nwokocha
  • Addison Ooms
  • Chris Palmer
  • Matt Robinson
  • Matt Rockett
  • Quentin Tartabull
  • Semisi Uluave
  • Alonso Vera
  • Moe Ways
  • Kyle Wells

I’ll kick things off with the offensive star for the (still-young) Wilcox Era—Patrick Laird. As a fan who witnessed the glory days of Tedford and Gould’s running backs, we’ve enjoyed a wealth of riches at the position and certainly have no shortage of talented—and beloved—tailbacks. And yet, Laird will go down as one of my favorites. He was such a pleasant surprise when he came out of nowhere to become a weapon in 2017. On top of that, his endeavors to combat academically listless summers through his summer reading program further exemplifies the Cal spirit.

California v USC
Patrick Laird’s big day against USC.
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Joshua: Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing, but I won’t miss having to hear about Patrick Laird’s summer reading program every single game. However, I think that is the only thing I won’t miss about him. Laird has been a leader of this team for the past two years and an extremely reliable player at the running back position. You cannot say enough words about this young man and we all wish him the best in his future, whether it involves football or not.

There isn’t too much to say about these two in terms of performance, unfortunately, but a commitment to the California Golden Bears is not something that can be overlooked—Chase Forrest and Ray Hudson. As we all know, Ray Hudson was the only player on roster last year to have interacted with Jeff Tedford, Sonny Dykes, and Justin Wilcox. That is true commitment and players like these are huge to have on your team. And although Forrest did not have the sendoff that he or Cal fans would have wanted, the fact that he was one of two senior Power 5 quarterbacks to have never started in a game nor to have transferred should mean something as well. These guys are a model of dedication and players whom we should be very happy to have had in our program for the past few years.

Leland: Let’s also look at fan-favorite Malik McMorris. What a blast it’s been to witness such a unique athlete on the field. All of Bear Territory lights up when the big man busts out his unexpected agility when his number gets called. We’re so enamored with him that he’s even converted a number of fans to appreciate blocking thanks to its uber-effective and bone-crushing nature. A shame that he was robbed of the Piesman.

NCAA Football: California at Oregon State
McMorris’s big-man touchdown
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

Joshua: Malik McMorris had to have been one of my favorite players on the team in past years. It is not because of his unique figure, but because of how unique of a player he was and how vital he has been to Cal’s offense. First off, a player that big isn’t supposed to move that well. The fact that he could deliver a huge block and then go out and catch a pass was just so fun to watch. I mean, when Malik caught a pass was pretty much the only time the announcers got excited when discussing Cal’s offense. To speak more on his blocking though, he really was one of the better non-offensive lineman blockers I have seen in a while to come through Cal or even the Pac-12. When Cal’s offense wasn’t horrible last year, we ran behind him. When Cal’s offense was horrible this year, one of our few things that would work was running behind him. Malik is a type of player that we may never see come through Cal again, and we all will miss him dearly.

Leland: On the other side of the ball with Alex Funches, who was an unexpected weapon for us. As one of our best edge defenders for his two seasons in the blue and gold, it was a joy to watch his patience to diagnose run vs. pass plays, the way he would evade and outcompete opposing tackles to stop run plays, and an even better pleasure to watch him take down quarterbacks.

Washington v California
The Cal faithful embraced Moe Ways as a true Golden Bear
Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Joshua: Moe Ways had our second-most receiving yards this past season and our third-most catches. Sure, you usually don’t want 34 catches for 383 yards to place that high respectively in your team leaders, but Ways was pretty great in his one year as a Bear. Also, his one and only touchdown came in a huge spot against Colorado to seal a win. Lastly, we don’t know what role he could have played in the transfer of Kekoa Crawford, but it sure seems like more than a coincidence to have two former Michigan receivers transfer in consecutive years. Either way, I am very thankful for Moe’s contributions to the team this year, and will miss trying and failing to make puns out of his name.

Leland: Let’s close things out with our defensive captain, Jordan Kunaszyk. He was the definition of an impact player for us (which is understating his significance) and it often felt like he put the team on his back at times during the season. We watched him grow and develop during his three-year career at Cal and his stellar character and work ethic always shone in all of his interviews. While I would trust him to improve any defense on and off the field through his virtues, performance, and sheer will, I might not trust him in the kitchen, though.

Oregon v California
Kunaszyk’s pick sealed an overtime win over Oregon
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Joshua: Can I say enough about this guy? He had 143 tackles this season. He had one game all season of less than 7 total tackles. He forced five fumbles. He was named as a second-team All American by Sports Illustrated. He and Evan Weaver combined for the most tackles of any duo in Cal history. He was a captain and the leader of the best defense we have seen Cal have in a very long time. HE HAD 143 TACKLES THIS SEASON. Despite Cal returning most of their entire defense for next season, they will lose arguably their best and most irreplaceable player in Kunaszyk. We can only hope that his successor can be as good as he was, but that is probably impossible.