Nov. 17, 1998
By Garry Bowman
Back in August, when the Golden Bears were still preparing to embark on the 1998 season, California wide receiver Dameane Douglas said his goal this year was to "show everybody that I am the kind of receiver that can carry a Pac-10 team on my back."
Looking back now, three months later, Douglas' words could not have proven to be more prophetic. With all but today's 101st Big Game remaining in Cal's regular season, Douglas has played the role of 'Atlas' for the Bears, hauling in an incredible 46-percent of the team's receptions this season, more than three times more catches than any other Cal player in '98.
And despite playing on an offense that has occupied the Pac-10's cellar in virtually every statistical category for most of the season, Douglas has emerged as the as not only the conference's top receiver, but also as a legitimate All-America candidate.
A 6-1, 195-pound senior who hails from the small California central valley town of Hanford, Douglas entered the season as a virtual unknown, but has taken college football by storm. He not only leads the Pac-10 in receptions (8.7) and yards (102.6) per game, but his reception numbers rank him No. 3 in the nation.
"Douglas has made a big impression on the Pac-10," said Oregon State head coach Mike Riley during a teleconference earlier this year. "Everyone speaks of him in glowing terms. He makes a ton of tough plays."
However, that's only the tip of the iceberg for Douglas this year. His 87 catches on the season have shattered Bobby Shaw's previous Cal single-season record of 75 and gives him 182 for his career, making him also the Bears all-time leader in career receptions. Most impressive of all, however, may be the fact that he needs just four more catches today to surpass USC's Keyshawn Johnson for the most receptions ever in a single season in the history of the Pacific-10 Conference.
"Breaking Bobby's record was just another step," said Douglas, who, amazingly enough, was told by the coaching staff at Fresno State that he was too slow to play receiver in the Western Athletic Conference. "I want to be known as one of the best receivers the Pac-10 has ever seen, if not the best. And I can take another step towards that in the Big Game."
Being the best is what Douglas has striven for since he arrived at Cal. Both on the playing field and in class, he approaches every aspect of life with his motor running full bore, taking all challenges head on.
"Dameane competes like I've never seen anyone compete before," said fellow senior Mike Freeman. "Not only in games, but in practice, too."
But it may be Douglas' competition in the classroom that he's most proud of. After struggling to make a qualifying mark on his SAT's, a lot of schools backed away from him. However, the coaching staff at Cal believed Douglas had the enough potential to make it at what is regarded as the Pac-10's most difficult academic institution for student-athletes. And boy did he prove them right.
Now, four years after make a qualifying score on his second attempt at the college boards, Douglas is just one class shy of earning his social welfare degree from Cal. And he couldn't be prouder.
"If there is one thing I wish people realized about me that they may not know is that I've worked really hard at my education," Douglas said. "I'm going to graduate with a degree from Cal after I finish up this last class I am in this semester. I'd have to say I'm pretty proud of that."
And so are his parents, Rozell and Vera, who have made the three-hour trek up from Hanford to see Dameane play in every home game of his Cal career.
"They were one of the main reasons I came to Cal," said Douglas. "The academic reputation of the school was very important to them, espeically my mother."
So, in the grand scheme of things, whether or not Cal beats Stanford today, or if he surpasses Johnson's Pac-10 receiving mark, is less important to Douglas than the goal he has all but accomplished ... getting his Cal degree.