April 26, 2012
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BERKELEY - Former Cal football players Alex Mack and Aaron Rodgers were honored along with head coach Jeff Tedford at the inaugural Cal Football Gala held April 21 at the Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance to celebrate the completion of Tedford's 10th season at Cal. Mack and Rodgers became the first two recipients of the Cal Football Excellence Award, while Tedford was recognized for being the winningest coach in Cal football history.
The Cal Football Excellence Award is presented to a Cal football player that through his life's work in the profession of football and/or as a leader in his community makes a positive difference in the lives of others, and demonstrates the integrity, character and courage that represents Cal football.
The accomplishments of the event's honorees are many.
Mack was a member of the Sporting News All-Decade team as the best center at his position in college football in the first decade of this century. As a senior at Cal in 2008, he earned the prestigious National Football Foundation Draddy Trophy (since renamed William V. Campbell Trophy) given to college football's top scholar-athlete and often dubbed the `Academic Heisman'. He was also the recipient of an NFF National Scholar-Athlete Award and the Pac-10 Scholar-Athlete of the Year in 2008. The two-time collegiate All-American, two-time winner of the Morris Trophy as the best offensive lineman in the Pac-10, and three-time all-conference player has continued to be successful in the National Football League. After being drafted in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft by Cleveland, Mack has started all 48 games possible in his first three seasons with the Browns and was selected for the 2011 Pro Bowl following his performance during the 2010 campaign.
"Cal football did a really good job of preparing me," Mack said. "It was an honor to win the award, especially to win it along with Aaron Rodgers. He is one the most well-known Cal grads today and to be in the same company is a big honor."
Rodgers is Cal's all-time leader in pass efficiency (150.3) and also holds the school's career (1.95%) and single-season (1.43%) records for lowest interception rate. He also completed a school-record 26 consecutive passes over a two-game span during the 2004 campaign. Rodgers became the team's starting quarterback in the fifth game of the 2003 season and ended up tying a single-season school record with five 300-yard passing games as he passed for 2,903 yards to rank fourth on Cal's single-season list. His career 43 touchdown passes and 5,469 passing yards in just over a season and a half as the Bears' starter rank seventh and ninth all-time, with his 24 touchdown passes in 2004 tied for third. He has two of the top four single-season passer ratings in school history, with his 154.3 mark in 2004 ranking second after a 146.6 showing the previous season that is fourth. He set a school bowl record with 394 yards passing to be named the Offensive MVP of the 2003 Insight Bowl. He earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors in 2004 and Cal narrowly missed making the Rose Bowl before finishing 10-2 overall and 7-1 in conference play to take second in the Pac-10.
Rodgers was a first-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in the 2005 NFL Draft and is coming off a 2011 season in which he was named the Associated Press' Male Athlete of the Year as well as the news organization's NFL Most Valuable Player and a first-team All-Pro. The previous season Rodgers led the Packers to the Super Bowl XLV title and earned the game's MVP honors. He has spent the last four campaigns as Green Bay's starter and is the only player in NFL history to throw for over 4,000 yards in each of his first two seasons as a starter in 2008 and '09. Rodgers is also the NFL's all-time career leader in passer rating during both the regular season (104.1) and postseason (105.5) among passers with at least 1,500 and 150 pass attempts, respectively.
"I'm very touched to be accepting this award tonight on behalf of my current teammates here [in Green Bay] but also the ones I was able to spend time with at Cal," Rodgers said in a videotaped acceptance of the award. "Some of the fondest memories of my playing career came during my two years at Cal."
Tedford has become the winningest coach in Cal football history during his 10 seasons at the school, having posted a career record of 79-48 (.622) in a school-record 127 games and setting the school's win record with his 75th victory vs. Presbyterian at AT&T Park on Sept. 17, 2011. The two-time Pac-10 Coach of the Year (2002, '04) has also established the Golden Bears as one of the elite football programs in the conference and lifted Cal into the national discussion on a consistent basis during his tenure as the school's head coach. His teams have ranked among the nation's top 25 four times as well as been in the top 10 at some point on five occasions. Cal posted a school-record run of seven straight bowl appearances from 2003-09 and has played in a bowl game eight times in the last nine campaigns while being bowl-eligible in nine of the last 10. Cal is 5-3 in the postseason under Tedford, including a school-record string of four consecutive bowl wins from 2005-08, making him the only Cal mentor with more than two bowl victories. In addition, Cal put together a school-record-tying eight consecutive winning campaigns from 2002-09 and added a ninth in 10 seasons in 2011 to begin another streak. Cal has twice posted a school-record-tying 10 wins under Tedford in 2004 and `06, the sixth and seventh times in school history. Tedford is 7-3 in the Big Game, equaling Pappy Waldorf's school record of seven wins against the Cardinal.
But Tedford's teams have not only got it done on the field, they've also got it done in the classroom. His players have been recognized as conference All-Academic honorees 103 times in 10 seasons, ranking second among Pac-12 teams. Of the 182 seniors who played for Tedford in his first nine campaigns, 160 (88%) have earned their college degrees and/or gone on to NFL careers.
"There may be only one name on that award, but I can promise you there are so many people that played a vital role in every single achievement that we've ever accomplished here," Tedford said as he thanked the people at the event who have contributed to the football program.
"While this award really recognizes wins, it's so much more than that," Tedford added in his comments. "It's the day-to-day gratification that we get from raising these kids - what they do athletically, academically, socially, spiritually. These are great young men. Our job here is not just to make great football players or athletes. It's to make sure that we play a vital role in their development as people. Our number one recruiting tool is and always will be the strength of the Cal degree and we've got everything the alumni provide for us, the No. 1 public institution in the world. That is something that you can all be proud of. You all attended Cal and have a great synergy, a great passion for what the University of California stands for."
The first annual event capped an exciting day of football activities on campus that began with the Cal Football Spring Experience at Goldman Field at Edwards Stadium. In addition to honoring Mack, Rodgers and Tedford, the evening event was also in appreciation to many of the donors visiting the completed Simpson Center for Student-Athlete High Performance for the first time.
"It was a privilege to be able to receive an outstanding education at the University of California, Berkeley, truly one of the great institutions of higher learning in the world," said Richard Sandler `70. "Berkeley is a beautiful place and provides the perfect setting for excellence, but like anything in life, it is the people - the students, the faculty, the administration, the staff, the alumni and all those who contribute so much - that make the experience of Cal so special. Athletics is certainly an important element of that experience as it provides a great opportunity (i) for the student-athlete to compete and learn and grow as a human being, (ii) for the other students to come together and be part of something bigger than themselves as they take pride in the accomplishments of their fellow students in a spirit of support and sportsmanship, and (iii) for alumni and others to connect to their university and those who preceded us and will come after us. That is why last night was so special. It was a pleasure to participate in an event that celebrated the wonderful accomplishments of Jeff Tedford as an educator as much as a coach as he has brought excellence and pride to Cal with the performance and growth of his players on and off the field."
The Cal Football Gala will serve as the annual fundraiser for the football program in the spring of every year. Funds from this event support the operating expenses of the football program including equipment, facilities, strength and conditioning support, coaches and administrative salaries. The intention of the gala is to connect football alumni from across all generations, and celebrate their achievements on and off the field, while strengthening the community as a distinct alumni group within Cal Athletics. This event complements the efforts of the Grid Club and the annual fundraising from within the department. Special guests of note will be routinely incorporated in the event's programming.
"It was a very special evening to celebrate what we have accomplished in recent years and where the Cal football team is headed with this amazing athletics facility," Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said. "It was a wonderful day and a great event to pause and celebrate Jeff's leadership and our fabulous football alumni. We are so fortunate to engage with such wonderful supporters of Cal football and UC Berkeley as a whole. The interest and commitment from our community is so clearly evident for our football program. Cal football is an integral part of the pursuit of excellence of this campus, both athletically and academically."