Aug. 25, 2000
Turlock, CA - It's a frustrating time for new Cal receiver Chad Heydorff. Just on the verge of moving into the starting line-up, he pulled a hamstring last Saturday, one day before the team put on the pads for the first time, and has been relegated to the sidelines.
The good news is that he expects to be back practicing the first week of September and hopes to be available for action in the season-opener against Utah on Sept. 9.
The one thing the Cal passing game has lacked during pre-season camp has been a consistency from the wide receiver group catching the football.
"We're dropping too many balls and that's a dimension Chad excells at," said head coach Tom Holmoe. "We need to get him back into the rotation because he'll really help us this year."
Heydorff has always been a steady receiver who rarely drops a ball, dating back to his Pop Warner days. His solid fundamentals are hardly a surprise as he grew up in a football environment. His dad, Mark, played football at Nebraska and coached for 13 years in the college ranks, spending two seasons at Washington State and Nebraska and nine years at Missouri.
"Heydorff says his dad helped him develop as a football player, but his pass-catching abilities were a product of his own dedication. "Since I wasn't blessed with exceptional speed or tremendous size, I figured catching the football well was something that could get you someplace."
He attended St. Francis HS as a prep, but didn't attract much attention as his team relied almost exclusively on the run and he had only slightly more than a dozen catches as a senior. He decided to continue playing football and landed at Glendale City College, where he blossomed the last two seasons.
After hauling in 40 catches as a freshman in 1998, he exploded last season to lead the state JC ranks with 86 catches for 1,616 yards and 17 touchdowns. He had offers from Oregon, Washington and Colorado, but decided to come to Cal.
Even with his JC credentials, he says it was an eye-opener when he arrived at Cal last spring. "I couldn't believe how good the athletes are at this level,"
Heydorff responded in his usual fashion, working even harder to improve himself. When he arrived at Cal, he weighed 167 pounds and his strength was suspect. Today he checks in at just over 185 pounds and has improved his vertical leap from 31 inches to 35 inches.
He's also earned the respect of his teammates as many of the veteran defensive backs have singled him out as the one most likely to help the passing game this season.
His presence should greatly benefit quarterback Kyle Boller, whose pass completion percentage suffered badly last year, due in part to many dropped passes. Heydorff says catching the ball is mostly a mental thing.
"It's a matter of confidence," he said. "It's knowing that the ball is yours and expecting to catch the football. I pride myself in not dropping a ball in practice or in a game. I'm not always perfect, but I expect to be."
If he can return healthy and provide that type of steady play, it should go a long ways toward solving Cal's offensive inconsistency and play a huge role in a big turnaround for the Golden Bears this fall.