Aug. 16, 2001
TURLOCK - When Marcus Fields fractured a shoulder against Utah in last year's season-opener, the assumption was that he would take a medical-redshirt year and return as a fifth-year senior in 2001.
But that wasn't necessarily true.
On track to graduate with a degree in American studies, Fields contemplated ending his football career and pursuing his new path as a high school counselor. However, when March began to roll around, Fields informed Tom Holmoe that he would be back in uniform, news that certainly pleased the Golden Bear head coach.
"There was a possibility that, because he was on track to graduate, he wouldn't come back to play," Holmoe said. "He made a decision before spring ball to come back, and, boy, are we glad he did."
Now, Fields finds himself firmly entrenched as Cal's starting fullback, the fourth offensive position he has played since arriving in Berkeley as the all-time rushing leader in San Joaquin County history at Stockton's Stagg High School.
With the Bears, Fields was a tailback his first two seasons and led Cal with 734 yards as a sophomore in 1998, including four 100-yard games. The next season, he had 123 yards in the opener vs. Rutgers, but gave way at tailback to then-freshman Joe Igber and saw some action at wide receiver.
Last year, the Cal offensive staff installed the H-back position just to take advantage of Fields' multiple talents. But those plans fell by the wayside before the first game was even over when Fields was forced to miss the rest of the year with his injured shoulder.
"It was really tough to sit out there each week and know I couldn't go out there and play," said Fields, who ranks 15th on Cal's career rushing list with 1,525 yards. "I tried to be like a cheerleader for them. Towards the end of the season, I had to start getting better for the next season."
With coordinator Al Borges now in charge of Cal's offensive attack, Fields was shifted to fullback and he spent the spring learning the new position. However, he said he didn't find the transition all that difficult.
"I worked at fullback all spring," Fields said. "I'm doing a lot of the same things I was doing in the past. I'm pretty much used to it by now."
Bulked up to 230 pounds - 45 pounds more than when he first arrived on campus - Fields has become one of the key leaders on the team. He's so entrenched at fullback that Holmoe is not entertaining thoughts of shifting him back to tailback now that Joseph Echema is out of the year.
"Marcus is our starting fullback so it doesn't make a lot of sense to move him from there to No. 2 tailback," Holmoe said. "He'll be big part of our offense, whether he's blocking, running or catching the ball out of the backfield."
For Fields, though, where he lines up doesn't seem to matter. He's just eager to play football again.
"This year, I'm a lot more fired up," Fields said. "After sitting out a whole year, it's a lot more fun to be back on the field and be playing with my teammates. I'm excited."
Fields also expects to finish his class work by December, leaving only a thesis to write next spring. Then, he can start that new career as a counselor.