Aug. 29, 2011
Mychal Kendricks never saw this day coming. Not when he was in high school in Fresno, Calif., nor when he first stepped foot on campus in Berkeley.
The standout senior linebacker on the Cal football team did not think a day would come when he and his fellow Golden Bears would suit up and play against the team that he grew up cheering for - the Fresno State Bulldogs.
However, Cal and Fresno State will meet in the Battle by the Bay Saturday, Sept. 3, at 4 p.m. at Candlestick Park.
All eyes will be on Kendricks in every game this season. However in this case, a lot of the opposing fans who will be watching him are friends and family.
"When I first came to Cal, I thought it would be crazy and such a good time to play Fresno State," Kendricks said. "I didn't think it was ever going to happen. You can never see three years into the future, but sure enough, it happened. I'm excited, that's my hometown and everyone will be watching."
Dreams of Kendricks' epic matchup began when he was in high school. Then a big Bulldog fan, Kendricks tried to go to as many Fresno State games as he could, although sometimes watching Fresno State took a backseat to when Kendricks had his own football game to play. Going to school right down the street from campus at Hoover High School, Kendricks definitely felt the Bulldog love every day.
In a close-knit community like Fresno, all the locals really rally behind their beloved Bulldogs. For somebody like Kendricks who had never really left Fresno while growing up, when you talked about college football to him back then, all he could respond with was Fresno State. If there was a close second, it was UCLA. His father, Marvin, had a highly-successful career as a Bruin. Mychal's younger brother, Eric, is currently on the Bruin squad.
"When I was in high school, it never really occurred to me that there was anything outside of Fresno State," Kendricks said. "I was kind of closed-minded in a small town. It was Fresno State and that's all I knew. Of course, UCLA, but I didn't think I could make it outside of where you were. During my junior year and my senior year, I started to get calls from other schools and it became a reality."
Marvin is a Cal season ticket holder. While he and his family support the Bulldog program, as well, they have absolutely no reservations about wearing blue and gold on Sept. 3.
"When Mychal visited Cal, he liked it so much he chose Cal without even telling me first," Marvin Kendricks said. "It was the best decision he could have made, seeing as how well he's doing now."
When it comes to recruiting, the coaches usually come calling first to the recruits about their respective schools. Kendricks was one of the exceptions. He knew he wanted to be a Golden Bear before the Cal coaches knew they wanted him.
One day when he was sitting in his high school coach's office, a brochure caught Kendricks' attention. It was a brochure for a Cal football camp. He recognized the Cal script logo, but did not know much else about the school.
"I didn't know that it was one of the most prestigious schools in America," Kendricks said. "I asked my coach, `Who is this?' He said, `That's Jeff Tedford. He actually went to Fresno State.' I said, `That'd be tight to go there.' I remember that clear as day. Next thing I know, two years later, I'm here."
All Kendricks needed was somebody wearing the Cal logo to find him. Linebackers assistant coach Kenwick Thompson spotted him right off the bat at one of the Nike camps held in Palo Alto, Calif.
Thompson knew he had to act fast with Kendricks. Not only was Kendricks invited to the Nike camp, but he was named the MVP. Soon the offers were going to start pouring in and Kendricks would learn that he had a plethora of options to play college ball besides with his hometown heroes.
"I thought he was probably the most athletic guy there," Thompson said. "He was doing a quick feet drill, and he definitely had the fastest feet out of all the guys in the drill. So I just started following him around and watching him in each drill. It was obvious that he was the most athletic guy there. Soon after that camp, a lot of people were going to offer him (a scholarship), so I tried to get the word to him as soon as I could that we wanted to offer him."
Kendricks knew Thompson was there watching him at the camp.
"I remember a Cal coach following me, just marking stuff and I didn't know if it was good or bad," Kendricks said. "It was Coach Thompson, he was there doing some recruiting. Sure enough, I got a call asking to go to the Cal camp. I came to the Cal camp and they offered me a scholarship."
Now a Bear, Kendricks arrived in Berkeley and immediately noticed a huge culture shock from what he was used to in Fresno. Kendricks was amazed at all the different cultures, opinions and types of people that reside in Berkeley and attend Cal.
Kendricks enjoys all the new opportunities and experiences that come with being at Cal. Still, at the same time, he does get a little homesick at times. He missed his family and he was not used to not being in the small bubble that was his whole world when he was growing up.
"I just wasn't used to everything," Kendricks said. "The weather is crazy here, and there's not a lot of fast food here. There are good whole foods, but I just wanted some greasy fast food that normally I could get right around the corner, but it wasn't available here. I had no car or anything. I missed my family. I definitely got homesick."
His family undoubtedly missed him too, although his coaches and teammates were glad he was at Cal.
Fellow senior linebacker D.J. Holt has seen Kendricks come into his own as a vocal leader for the Bears.
"This year, he's stepped into the role of speaking more, but he also leads by example," Holt said. "He and I go hand-in-hand. I'm more of a lead by example guy and he's more the vocal leader. He speaks what's on his mind. He's more outgoing and rowdy. We balance each other out."
Holt and Thompson are both well aware that the Fresno State game hits close to home with Kendricks, and they know Kendricks is not holding back his emotions for that game. Most coaches would want a player like Kendricks to not let his emotions get the best of him and stay focused on the task at hand. Concentration and focus is still what Thompson is demanding from Kendricks, however, he wants him to use his emotions to drive his motivation towards that concentration and focus.
"He's thinking about it," Thompson said. "It's his hometown. He sees those guys every day on a daily basis. I don't have a problem with him using it as motivation, but use it as motivation for preparation, not on the day of the game. He should want to play these guys. He should want to beat them and he should use that motivation to prepare and practice, and then the rest will take care of itself."
No matter who wins and loses on Sept. 3, it's only the season opener. Kendricks will have at least 11 more games in his collegiate career, and hopefully a lot of them will end up meaning more to him than the Fresno State game.
When the season ends and Kendricks moves on with his life, he said he will always be a Bear. The experience that helped him venture out into the world will not soon be forgotten.
"I'm from Fresno, but I'm a Bear," Kendricks said. "I never was a Bulldog, so I can't sit there and go back to being a dog because I never was one. That's just all I knew. I don't know what the future holds for me. The whole pro thing would be a blessing, but nobody knows. I know I want to be a high school coach at some point. I want to work with children and make a difference in their lives. I want to make changes in people's lives. Maybe if I'm successful in football, it could help me make a change in someone else's life."
Single-game tickets for the season-opening TicketCity Battle by the Bay at San Francisco's Candlestick Park against Fresno State on Saturday, Sept. 3 are on sale now. The neutral-site season opener for both teams is not part of the Bears' season-ticket package.
Tickets are also on sale for Cal's five home games this season at San Francisco's AT&T Park. Cal will host Pac-12 opponents USC (Thu., Oct. 13), Utah (Sat., Oct. 22), Washington State (Sat., Nov. 5) and Oregon State (Sat., Nov. 12) at the venue after playing Presbyterian in its home opener on Sat., Sept. 17. Cal football tickets can be purchased online at CalBears.com or by calling the Cal Athletic Ticket Office at (800) GO BEARS.
After playing the last 88 seasons and every home game at Memorial Stadium since the facility opened for the 1923 Big Game, Cal will host its home games outside of Berkeley for the first time in 2011 while Memorial Stadium undergoes an extensive renovation and retrofit. For updates on the progress of the renovation and retrofit of Memorial Stadium as well as the Memorial Stadium webcam, visit stadium.berkeley.edu.
2011 CAL FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
Day, Date - Opponent (Time, TV)
^Sat., Sept. 3 - Fresno State (4 p.m. PT, CSN California)
Sat., Sept. 10 - at Colorado (1:30 p.m. MT/12:30 p.m. PT)
Sat., Sept. 17 - Presbyterian (TBA)
*Sat., Sept. 24 - at Washington (TBA)
*Thu., Oct. 6 - at Oregon (6 p.m. PT, ESPN)
*#Thu., Oct. 13 - USC (6 p.m. PT, ESPN)
*Sat., Oct. 22 - Utah (TBA)
*Sat., Oct. 29 - at UCLA (TBA)
*Sat., Nov. 5 - Washington State (TBA)
*Sat., Nov. 12 - Oregon State (TBA)
*Sat., Nov. 19 - at Stanford (TBA)
*Fri., Nov. 25 - at Arizona State (8:15 p.m. MT/7:15 p.m. PT, ESPN)
!Fri., Dec. 2 - Pac-12 Championship Game (TBA, FSN)
Home Games in Bold at AT&T Park, San Francisco, Calif.; ^TicketCity Battle by the Bay at Candlestick Park, San Francisco, Calif.; *Pac-12 Game; !Pac-12 Championship Game at Home Site of Regular-Season Champion; #Homecoming