Cal Football: Ranking the 15 Greatest Players in Cal History
Despite not having reached a Rose Bowl in over 50 years, the Bears have had their fair share of electrifying players. Consistency might not be this team's mantra, but year in and year out, Cal fans delight in watching one of their own mature and rise among the ranks in the Pac-12.
From the "Wonder Years" to "The Play" to Aaron Rodgers to Jahvid Best, these 15 players will go down as some of the greatest ever in Cal football history.
College career, team success, lasting legacy and professional future were just some of the things considered in making these rankings.
15. Dan McMillan
As an offensive tackle during the Bears' 1920s "Wonder Years," McMillan played a pivotal role in the team's success.
In his two years as an offensive tackle, Cal posted a near-perfect 18-0-1 record. Some of McMillan's highlights included an unreal 127-0 beatdown of St. Mary's and a season in which McMillan and coach Andy Smith helped lead Cal to a perfect 9-0 record en route to its Pacific Coast Conference Championship.
McMillan was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1971.
14. Bryan Anger
The three-time all-conference punter spent a career giving opposing offenses bad field position. From 2009-2011, Anger was awarded the J. Scott Duncan Award for Cal's Most Valuable Special Teams Player.
As a junior in 2010, Anger joined the Cal records book with a 45.6 yard punt average. Anger was crucial for the Bears, as their shaky offense often necessitated his boot.
Anger was the 70th pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2012 NFL draft.
13. Mike Mohamed
The ferocious middle linebacker, Mohamed earned first team All-Pac-10 honors in his first full season as a starter in 2009.
Mohamed is fourth all-time on Cal's tackling list with 340 unassisted tackles. He was a stat-sheet stuffer, tallying 20.0 yards for loss, seven sacks and seven interceptions in his four-year Cal career.
Off the field, Mohamed earned Pac-10 All-Academic honors for four consecutive years. Perhaps Mohamed will best be remembered for his incredible interception of Andrew Luck (see 7:55) and Stanford in the 2009 Big Game, keeping the Axe in Berkeley.
Mohamed was drafted by the Denver Broncos with the 189th pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
12. DeSean Jackson
Arguably the most explosive wide receiver in the history of Cal football, Jackson was torrid for the Bears, scoring 28 touchdowns in just 36 career games. Jackson was a nightmare for opposing secondaries, as he had a consecutive streak of 28 games with at least one reception.
Hungry for the big play, Jackson also recorded 52 career plays of 20 or more yards, accounting for almost a quarter of his total touches.
As a kick returner, Jackson used his speed and agility to break free for big plays a la his 77-yard punt return for a touchdown against Tennessee.
In 2007, Jackson earned first-team All-American honors as a receiver and helped lead Cal to a win over Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. He was selected by the Philadelphia Eagles with the 49th pick in the 2008 NFL draft.
11. Bob Herwig
The 1937 All-American center helped lead the "Thunder Team" Bears to the 1937 national championship. Herwig was regarded as one of the leaders on the Bears' strong offensive lines during his starting tenure from 1935-37.
Herwig was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1964. He passed away in 1974.
10. Russell White
White's first touch for the Bears at Memorial Stadium was electric, as he returned a kickoff for 99 yards and a touchdown.
White paved the way for some of the other explosive tailbacks to start for Cal. In the 1992 Citrus Bowl against Clemson, White led the 9-2 Bears to a 37-13 drubbing of the Tigers. In the game, White rushed for 103 yards against a defense that had not allowed a runner to reach the century mark in nearly four years.
White was drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1993. He was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
9. Jahvid Best
The 2009 early Heisman contender was Cal's most exciting player during his three-year career from 2007-09.
In his three seasons, Best earned All-Pac-10 honors in 2007 and 2008 and second-team honors in 2009. Best is among the all-time Cal rushing greats as he has the record for most career 200-yard rushing games for a Bear with three and is tied for third on the Bears' all-time list with 29 rushing touchdowns.
Best was known for breaking out the big play, using quick feet and ruthless strength to punch through opposing defenses, as evidenced by his 93-yard touchdown run against UCLA at the Rose Bowl in 2009.
Best was drafted by the Detroit Lions with the 30th pick in the 2010 NFL draft.
8. Nnamdi Asomugha
A monster lockdown cornerback, Asomugha matched up against the opposing team's lead receiver in each of his starts for Cal.
In a three-year stint in Berkeley from 1999-2001, Asomugha had an impressive 91 unassisted tackles, three sacks and four picks.
Asomugha was drafted by the Oakland Raiders with the 31st pick in the 2003 draft. The four-time All-Pro selection now plays defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles.
7. Joe Kapp
The 1958 All-American quarterback, Kapp led the Bears in their return to the Rose Bowl in 1959. Despite being blown out 38-12 to Iowa, Kapp is hailed as a Cal football savior for helping bring the Bears back to Pasadena just two years after they were a miserable 1-9.
After playing for the British Columbia Lions in the Canadian Football League for a few seasons, Kapp joined the Minnesota Vikings, where he helped lead them to the Super Bowl in 1970. Kapp also coached the Bears from 1982-1986.
He was voted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1984.
6. Jackie Jensen
The 1948 All-American was Cal's first ever 1,000-yard rusher in a season. As a starter, Jensen averaged 6.0 yards per carry en route to tallying over 1,700 total yards.
In his first Rose Bowl in 1949, Jensen got Cal its first score off an incredible 67-yard run after a kickoff. Eventually Cal lost to Northwestern 20-14, the first of its three consecutive Rose Bowl losses from 1949-51.
Outside of football, Jensen was also a prolific college baseball player. Jensen was one of the few athletes in college sports history that played in both a Rose Bowl and a College World Series. Jensen was voted into the College Football Hall of Fame posthumously in 1984.
5. J.J. Arrington
Arrington is one of Cal's all-time rushing greats, pacing the Bears as the single-season rushing leader with 2,018 yards in 2004. Teaming up with Aaron Rodgers, Arrington helped restore winning to the much-maligned Bears football organization.
In 2004, Arrington became one of the few running backs in Pac-10 history to reach the 2,000-yard mark in a season. In a loss to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl, Harrington carried the ball 25 times for 173 yards. That year he was a consensus first-team All-American.
Arrington and Rodgers's 2004 squad finished with a 10-2 record, ranked No. 9 in the final AP poll. He was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals with the 44th pick in the 2005 NFL draft.
4. Vic Bottari
Named the most valuable player of Cal's last Rose Bowl victory in 1938, Bottari will go down as one of the most revered Bears in Cal's history.
Starting at halfback, Bottari led Cal in its 13-0 Rose Bowl win over Alabama. Bottari rushed for 137 yards on 34 carries and scored the only two touchdowns of the game.
As captain of the 1937 "Thunder Team," Bottari helped lead the Bears to an impressive 10-0-1 record. In his three years at Cal, Bottari rushed for 1,536 yards on 388 carries and scored 22 touchdowns. With a strong foot, he also kicked 13 PATs.
With a slew of awards, Bottari was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1981, Cal's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1986 and the Rose Bowl Hall of Fame in 1996. Bottari passed away in 2003.
3. Steve Bartowski
The first pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 1975, Bartkowski will go down as one of the great Cal quarterbacks of all time. As an All-American in 1974, Bartowski led the nation with 2,580 yards, helping lead the Bears to a 7-3-1 record.
As one of the highest-rated quarterbacks in Falcons history, Bartowski still holds many of the franchise's passing records. In May, Bartowski was announced as a member of the 2012 College Football Hall of Fame class.
2. Aaron Rodgers
The most esteemed Cal Bear in the last 10 years, Rodgers put Berkeley on the brink of the Rose Bowl before Mack Brown and the Longhorns stole the spot and pushed Cal to the Holiday Bowl.
Nevertheless, Rodgers was hailed as the leader of the Bears impressive 2004 squad that finished with a 10-2 record under coach Jeff Tedford.
Rodgers's coming out party came in the 2003 Insight Bowl against Virginia Tech. In a 52-49 shootout victory, Rodgers converted over 70 percent of his passes, tossed two touchdowns and ran for two.
The next year, Rodgers had Berkeley smelling the roses...well, almost.
After being selected by the Green Bay Packers with the 24th pick in the 2005 NFL draft, Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre for a few years before entering the NFL limelight. Rodgers led the Pack to a championship over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Superbowl XLV and was voted AP NFL MVP in 2011.
1. Tony Gonzalez
Arguably the greatest tight end in the history of the NFL, Gonzalez earned his stripes at Cal before he was selected with the 13th pick in the 1997 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.
An All-American with the Bears, Gonzalez had one of his most illustrious seasons as a Bear in 1996. Named All-Pac-10 and first-team All-American, he paced the Bears tight ends with 46 receptions for 699 yards and five touchdowns.
Gonzalez only trails Jerry Rice for most career receptions in NFL history. The tight end and former Bear will no doubt be headed to Canton after he retires.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!