Oct. 2, 2012
By Tim Miguel
The theme of the 2012 Cal football season is "Welcome Home" referring to the team's return to a renovated Memorial Stadium. For senior fullback Eric Stevens, the theme of the season opener for him was "Welcome Back".
At the outset of the team's 2011 training camp, Stevens went down with a knee injury that cost him the entire season.
"Everyone puts in so much work over the summer, and for it to be gone so fast, it was shocking," Stevens said. "Your junior year is a big year for you. I was going into that camp with a lot of confidence, but that's in the past now."
In addition to some help and advice he got from teammates who had been through similar situations, Stevens was really grateful to the support that he got from associate head coach and run game coordinator Ron Gould.
"Coach Gould was probably the main guy who, as far as people on the team, always kept it positive," Stevens said. "He told me to keep my spirits up and that I would be back next year playing again. He really helped me out. We'd have good talks to make sure my head was on it and that I kept working hard."
Gould added how difficult it was to see somebody as passionate about football as Stevens go down with an injury like that.
"It really broke my heart to see one of our leaders go down," Gould said. "The young man is very passionate about the game. He's a professional. He works hard, he dedicates himself on and off the field, in the classroom, everything. I told him that life is about overcoming adversities. Everyone is faced with something. It's not about getting knocked down. It's about getting back up. I told him that we will work together, he'll be back and every day I wanted him to come talk to me and let me know how he was feeling. I told him that I'm here for him, and not just as a coach to a player but as a person. He can always count on me."
Stevens came to Cal as a walk-on. He was greatly encouraged by his older brother, Craig, to be a Golden Bear. Craig, a tight end who played at Cal from 2003-07 and currently plays for the Tennessee Titans in the NFL, was a major reason why his younger brother ended up at Cal.
When Stevens first arrived on campus and joined his teammates, he was a little intimidated by the players on the field with him.
"You're coming in as a walk-on and everybody around you is a four-star recruit," Stevens said. "I don't even think I was on the Rivals site, so I was obviously a little intimidated. I think it might have actually helped me out because I had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder to work harder."
Fast forward to 2012 and Stevens has a clear job on this year's squad. He needs to help make room for Cal's backfield that includes senior tailbacks Isi Sofele and C.J. Anderson, both of who are striving to hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark and find the end zone.
Stevens probably wouldn't mind adding a second score to his collegiate resume. His first touchdown came in Cal's last meeting against today's opponent, Nevada, when the Bears and the Wolfpack met in Reno in 2010.
"I think you always remember your first touchdown," Stevens said. "It was kind of bittersweet because it was in a losing effort. When I scored I was on the kickoff right after, so I gave the ball to the ref and then I ran right back to get on the kickoff. It's a play that will always stick in my mind though. Everyone likes touchdowns, but I just want the team to win."
Having their starting fullback back in the mix, Stevens should help the Bears' chances of racking up a lot of wins in 2012. There's no doubt all of the coaches and his teammates were glad to welcome him back.