By Tim Miguel. Cal Athletic Communications
Training Camp isn’t just about the X’s and O’s and learning the playbook. The month of August is also for the players and coaches to come together and become a family.
Last Saturday evening, the team and staff got together in the Field Club at California Memorial Stadium to watch a movie. The movie was the documentary about the career and life of Joe Roth, Cal’s quarterback from 1975-76 who passed away from melanoma in 1977.
That event was one of many the team has shared to help strengthen its unity heading into the 2014 season.
“That movie was really heart felt,” junior safety Stefan McClure said. “To see somebody who is that selfless, had that much joy in his life and put everyone before himself, it was great to hear that story and hear about his life. That movie is going to make us appreciate life and this opportunity. We won’t look at practice as something we have to do, but more of blessing that we get to do. You can’t take anything for granted.”
The movie particularly hit home with sophomore Jared Goff since he is a quarterback like Roth. While Roth was fighting a personal adversity in battling cancer, Goff is battling with his teammates to get the Cal football program back on track.
Goff agrees with McClure that team is coming together more than ever, and watching the Roth documentary only helped strengthen that bond.
“As Cal football players, we’re in his shoes now,” Goff said. “He’s a part of our history and we’re doing the same things that he used to do. The Cal legacy and tradition will be enhanced from watching that. The logo that we see on our helmet and our jersey will be more special to us now after seeing that.”
After having a year to learn all about the tradition and history of the Cal football program, head coach Sonny Dykes preaches the importance of the program’s history to his players. He wants them to take pride in the name on the helmet and the front of the jersey.
It’s always been one of his goals during training camp to form a tight-knit family, and building that foundation starts from day one of camp.
“I’m a big believer in caring about each other and playing together as a team with the sacrifices that go with that,” Dykes said. “I’ve seen a lot of teams play better than they should because they were a true cohesive team, unselfish and with good leadership. I’ve been fortunate to be around some successful programs where we won a lot more games because of that. When they’re done playing football that experience is something they’ll take with them forever.”
Adversity came in waves for the Bears last season. Last February, the tragic passing of Ted Agu was another tough blow for the team to endure. The sadness from Agu’s passing has become motivation now for the Bears who have dedicated this season to Ted.
As Goff put it, every time the Bears step out on the field, Ted is still with them.
“Ted is still a big part of our team and definitely motivation for us,” Goff said. “This season is dedicated to him, as it should be, with the kind of player and person he was. We’re hoping to represent him in a positive way.
The movie was only one aspect of the off-field events the team has enjoyed during training camp. To complete the Swagger Games training competition that was organized by strength and conditioning coach Damon Harrington, the players participated in a whiffle ball home run derby. There have also been multiple team cook-outs on the East rim of the stadium and other movie nights.
All those events gave the players an opportunity to unwind, relax and get to know each other.
“I think this is a very fun time for us,” Goff said. “We’re really coming together. There are a lot of guys on the team who are starting to bond. People are becoming friends with each other, which is really cool to see. These events allow us to take a break and give us time to just get to know each other, which is really important.”
The importance of making those connections in training camp is vital. As McClure put it, when you have that bond with your teammates, it makes you want to play for them even more. He knows there’s a lot of work to be done in getting the program back on the right track and it will take a team effort.
“No one person can turn this around,” McClure said. “It’s going to take the collective effort of all of us working together and everybody getting better for the good of the team. Trying to cover up for other people and being a hero like some of us tried to do last year isn’t going to work. I have to make sure that I do my job and trust that the man next to me is going to do his job. We have a lot to prove and we have to make sure we prove all of the naysayers wrong. We also have to do this for us and the name we represent with this program.”
The bonds being built and strengthened during training camp will assuredly give Cal a boost as they prepare for the season opener at Northwestern.