This story originally appeared in Cal's Kickoff Game Progam on Sept. 15, 2007.
By Chris DeConna, Cal Media Relations
Wide receivers DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan have become household names for California football fans over the past two seasons, providing several highlights and memorable moments on the field.
But there is another corps of receivers that fans don't see as often on the field, and who don't receive all of the limelight, but these players will certainly leave a mark on the Cal program. Seniors Sean Young and Sam DeSa will depart at the conclusion of the 2007 campaign, and even though their time was limited on the field, their success off the field will be invaluable because of the lessons learned from football, family and team camaraderie.
Young and DeSa were early recruits in the Jeff Tedford era at Cal, and both were Golden Bear football fans growing up. But it was Tedford's impact that also drew them towards Cal. "I grew up in Berkeley, and I've been coming to Cal games ever since I was a kid," said Young. "I was coming when there was nobody in the stands, and nobody knew who the players were. I've always wanted to go here and then (they) beat Michigan State [in 2002], and I was pumped up about it. I knew there would be a great future here and a lot of opportunity for this program to change and make history."
"I knew Coach Tedford was a great coach when he came in," said DeSa. "When I met with him I really liked him and his coaching philosophy. The combination of that and loving Cal itself was a no-brainer."
As the program started to make strides and changes, both players began to make personal changes as well. "From being a freshman to now there have been so many changes," said DeSa. "I've learned so much about myself, (and) the different qualities and aspects of my personality and character, on the field and in the classroom. I've learned a lot about people, again not just in football, but in the classroom as well. I think I've gone through a big transformation."
"I know I haven't gotten all the playing time in the world," said DeSa. "But I've taken this experience, like all the little things that happen on a football team on this level and having those same principles translate in the real world - everyone has a role on a team, whether it's catching the ball and going for 1,000 yards in a season, or whether your role is backing somebody up, there is a role. In life, whether you are in a business, or whatever, there are certain hierarchies you fit into."
For Young, a future in cognitive science will be made possible because of the opportunities he made for himself during his time at Berkeley and because of the lessons learned from football, and the support from his family as well. "I felt coming to Berkeley and really taking advantage of my education has really helped me and opened up opportunities for me other than football, to really excel and advance," said Young. "I feel that I was really lucky to go to a school like this that can open those doors to give me other possibilities and options in life. I am really excited about finding my passion, other than football, and using this Cal education."
The lessons learned from football - being on the field, in the weight room, in the film sessions, in practice - will certainly prepare Young for his future ventures. "It's definitely going to help out," said Young. "Football is very demanding - you have to be punctual, you have to be on time, and you have to perform in all phases. I think that it's going to transfer over to whatever my profession is going to be or however I am going to work with people - that mentality to be on time and to be accountable. This rigorous program is going to help me take that competitive nature and wanting to get better and wanting to be the best - it's going to transfer over to whatever I do and it's going to help me out even more."
Young is quick to point that his family has been very influential in his growth process as well. "Throughout this whole time, there were a lot of ups and downs for me. (In that time) my dad has been my biggest supporter and believed in me when I thought nobody else did. He was always there for me and encouraged me never to give up. Without him staying on top of me and really feeling like he cared about me, I don't think I would have been able to go through these five years."
While their time on the field may have been limited, the contributions of players like DeSa and Young to the program have been major. And the lessons learned from being part of the California football experience will be invaluable for the rest of their lives.