Former Golden Bears Make Big Splash On NFL’s Biggest Stage


Jan 13, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) celebrates his touchdown catch against the Seattle Seahawks in the first quarter of the NFC divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

The University of California Golden Bears have always had its fair share of NFL talent during its storied history. Recently, there has been a boom, as you can find players from all over the league that are affiliated with Cal, many playing prominent roles on their respective teams. The Cal Golden Bears featured an impressive 13 players on teams that had made the NFL playoffs. Only three players remain as the NFL’s final four teams seek a berth into the Super Bowl.

The most prominent player remaining is probably one of the greatest players ever to come from Cal. That would be the future hall of famer Tony Gonzalez of the Atlanta Falcons. Gonzalez was finally able to get the monkey off his back, earning his first ever postseason victory. He played a key role in the game, as he finished with six catches for 51 yards and a touchdown. He also had a crucial 19 yard catch that set up Matt Bryant’s game winning kick.

Gonzalez is joined on the Falcons by former Golden Bear safety Thomas Decoud. Decoud finished fifth in the league in interceptions with six during the regular season.

The only remaining former Bear in the playoffs, is running back Shane Vereen of the New England Patriots. Vereen had himself a breakout game last week against the Houston Texans. He totaled 124 all purpose yards on 15 touches and three total touchdowns—two receiving and one rushing. The emergence of Vereen could play a major role in who wins this year’s Super Bowl, as it gives the Patriots another weapon for opposing teams to account for.

A total of seven Cal alumni were ousted in the divisional round. These seven players came from just two teams, the Packers and the Seahawks. These two teams are led by the two most popular former Cal players in the recent years, Aaron Rodgers and Marshawn Lynch.

Aaron Rodgers is one of the top quaterbacks in the NFL right now. This past season, Rodgers led all qualifying quarterbacks in QB rating. He is joined on the Packers by linebacker Desmond Bishop and wide receiver and returner Jeremy Ross. Bishop spent the entire year on the injured reserve list, while Ross had the muffed punt which set up the Niners’ second touchdown on Saturday.

The Seahawks have the most Cal players on their roster for all playoff teams. They are led by “Beast Mode,” or more formally known as Marshawn Lynch. Lynch is easily one of the most dynamic offensive players on Seattle.

On the defensive side of the ball, Brandon Mebane starts at the defensive tackle position for the Seahawks. Veteran kicker Ryan Longwell filled in for the injured Steven Hauschka; he made his four point after touchdown attempts, but did not have a field goal try. Cameron Morrah spent all year on the physically unable to perform list.

The remaining Golden Bears (Lorenzo Alexander-Redskins and Nick Sundberg-Bengals) were eliminated in the wild card round.

The fact that Cal has several star players in the NFL helps naturally helps their recruiting power, but the fact that the players are getting to the biggest stage in the NFL playoffs, helps exponentially. The Cal name alone brings in top talent, especially in talent rich California, but new coach Sonny Dykes will be pressed to turn this talent in to success on the field at the collegiate level.