This article first appeared in the Cal Kickoff Gameday Magazine, Oct. 22, 2011
By Tim Miguel
Mychal Kendricks never thought the day would come. Not when he was in high school in Fresno, Calif., where all he knew was Fresno State football. Kendricks never thought the day would come when he would be playing football at Cal.
The standout senior linebacker's dreams of coming to Cal 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 senior year, I started to get calls from other schools and it became a reality."
Marvin is now a Cal season ticket holder, and while he and his family support the Bulldog program; as well they had absolutely no reservations about wearing blue and gold on Sept. 3 when the Bears played Fresno State in the Battle by the Bay at Candlestick Park.
"When Mychal visited Cal, he liked it so much he chose Cal without even telling me first," Marvin 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 coach and recruiting coordinator 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. 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."
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."