Aug. 16, 2002
BERKELEY - "Show me the money!"
The famous quote from the blockbuster "Jerry Maguire" has come to personify many modern-day athletes. Playing well has taken a backseat to looking good, while media attention and financial gain has replaced winning as the chief incentive for performance.
None of this seems to matter, though, to James Bethea. A junior cornerback from Cleveland High School in the Los Angeles Basin, Bethea is a throwback-type player, a breath of fresh air for all football purists. "He plays for the love of the game," explained first-year defensive back coach J.D. Williams.
Bethea, who plays the game with a childhood enthusiasm, has developed over the past two seasons into Cal's most physical defensive back. At 6-0, 200 pounds, he has earned a reputation for being a hard-hitter from the corner position.
Thrown into the fire early in his true freshmen year - he had eight starts in 2000 - Bethea has been forced to learn on the field. As the 2002 season approaches, it seems his on-the-job training is paying off. "He is really coming into his own. He is doing all the extra things to improve himself and the team," Williams said.
Bethea, despite being a fixture on defense and kick returns the past two seasons, has gone virtually unnoticed by the media and public, even though he recorded 39 tackles and broke up five passes in nine starts last year. With the spotlight placed on fellow defensive backs Nnamdi Asomugha and Jemeel Powell, due to their styles and stature, Bethea has been able to develop quietly.
"I don't worry about that (exposure), I play because I enjoy playing, not for attention," said Bethea.
Bethea's performance this training camp, however, is starting to open the eyes of many in and around the program. A quick learner, Bethea is thriving under the new defensive system and tutelage of Williams, an NFL veteran who played in four Super Bowls.
"I identify with the new coaches and system, I am more relaxed and confident," said Bethea.
With the new system intact, Bethea is looking to have a big 2002 campaign. His work ethic and constant improvement should warrant him a strong season. As he continues to progress through the year, Bethea will not have to worry about a lack of notice.
"I want to win," he said. "To win I have to play great. If I play great, then the media attention will come."