Nov. 12, 2002
Before this season, it was a bumpy three years of football for senior cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
As a freshman, Asomugha took the field in true form, no redshirt to be taken for the young safety. There wasn't much playing time, but the starts eventually came-as did the endurance to withstand three consecutive losing seasons.
Feelings of frustration for the sport he had always loved would have been understandable. But Asomugha never lost the positive outlook that characterizes the type of person he is both on and off the playing field.
"I'm just the type of person who has expected to do well, every year for some reason," Asomugha said. "In my sophomore year, in my junior year-I've always said that this was going to be our year. But this year before the season, I wasn't the only one saying it. This year, that sentiment surfaced a lot around the team and was an early sign that things were going to be good."
Asomugha's positive attitude has rubbed off on his teammates. Named a team captain at the start of this season, he accepted the leadership role and performs it to the best of his ability.
"Coach (Jeff) Tedford sat down and talked with me before the season and made me realize that a lot of people were looking up to me this year, and that those people wanted me to lead the team because that's what we needed," Asomugha said. "Just from sitting down and talking with him and the coaches, they have been very influential. I feel they have helped me become a better person."
While he might not be the most vocal of the players, Asomugha's leadership on the field transcends his quiet presence.
"I believe in leading by example. One can lead vocally, but that's just not me. I chose to let my actions speak. If you are doing the right things, there will always be someone to follow you," Asomugha said.
Asomugha has done the right things this season. With 44 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries, he has shown his desire to shine in every aspect of the game. He has showcased his versatility this season by excelling in whichever position the coaching staff has placed him. Starting at free safety to begin the year, he moved to a rover position, before settling in at cornerback.
"Nnamdi is a gifted athlete in that he has great speed, great leaping ability and always gets a good jump on the ball," defensive secondary coach J.D. Williams said. "Being the fastest athlete on the team, we've got to put him in a position to cover the most dangerous players on the other team. We think he is best utilized at the cornerback position."
The leadership Asomugha displays on the field has followed him into the classroom. Last semester, Asomugha had a 4.0 GPA and is on target to graduate with an interdisciplinary field studies degree in corporate management and finance. After internships with the financial advisement company, PayneWebber in San Francisco, Asomugha has a plan for the future.
"If there was no football for me after college, I want to go to business graduate school and continue to study finance," Asomugha said. "I like the financial consulting and advising business and I think I've learned many things that will help me down the road."
However, if the future does hold football...
"Hopefully I have an opportunity to play at the next level. I think that is a dream the majority of college football players have, though not many see it come true," Asomugha said. "It has always been a goal of mine and I think my knowledge of the game and experience playing different positions should help me. Plus, I have the best defensive coaches who have taught me so much."
Aosmugha isn't really thinking about that aspect of the future just yet though. He still feels there is much to accomplish during the rest of this season.
"Ensuring a winning season was one of my top goals for this year. As a team we just wanted to ensure a winning season so that we could get to a bowl game," Asomugha said. "The one thing I've asked of this team is that we play hard and have fun. We've stepped up together as a team and we've played hard. And regardless of any goals, having fun is the No. 1 thing and we've done that this season."
Cal is one win away from clinching a winning year and two wins away from finishing the 2002 season with an 8-4 record.
The Golden Bears are also two games away from saying goodbye to one of the finest players the defensive backfield has ever featured.
While his collegiate career is coming to a close, Asomugha believes that he made the right choice in coming to Cal.
"I feel that I am a member of what is the best freshman class to ever come through Cal," Asomugha said. "I'm sure that the numbers say there were better ones, but I personally think that I came in with the best freshman class and that I am leaving with the best senior class. And I wouldn't change a thing."
Asomugha's positive outlook carried him through the lean years and he now feels fully able to enjoy a winning season.
"Sometimes people have to go through struggles to understand the happier side of a situation. Sometimes there must be pain before glory. The past three years have helped me out both on the field and off the field, as far as the decisions I've made and how to overcome trials and tribulations," Asomugha said. "To have this season come after all of that, shows that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. It's not what people would dream for, but it is what people need in order to survive outside of college."
No matter which position Asomugha ends up playing in life after graduating from Cal, success will likely follow him wherever he goes.