April 24, 2010
More Draft Coverage: Bear Blog | NFL.com
Former Bears Sign Free Agent Contracts, Arrange Workouts with NFL Teams
Alualu's Cal Career: Highlight Video | Photo Gallery | Bio | Stats
Best's Cal Career: Highlight Video | Photo Gallery | Bio | Stats
Thompson's Cal Career: Highlight Video | Photo Gallery | Bio | Stats
NEW YORK CITY - Three former Cal players were chosen in the 2010 NFL Draft that ended Saturday at Radio City Music Hall after three days and seven rounds of selections. Defensive lineman Tyson Alualu (Jacksonville Jaguars, 10th overall) and tailback Jahvid Best (Detroit Lions, 30th overall) were both selected in the first round Thursday. Cornerback Syd'Quan Thompson (Denver Broncos, 225th overall) was picked up in the seventh round Saturday.
Alualu is the highest Cal selection in the NFL Draft since Andre Carter was taken seventh overall by San Francisco in 2001 and the Bears' ninth top-10 pick in the draft's history. Cal players were selected first and third overall in back-to-back years when quarterback Steve Bartkowski went first overall to Atlanta in 1975 and running back Chuck Muncie was selected two spots later by New Orleans the following year. Only two Cal players - quarterback Rich Campbell (Green Bay, sixth overall) and Carter - have been picked higher since.
Alualu and Best are the 24th and 25th players in Cal history to be selected in the first round, while six Bears have been taken in the first round and 32 selected overall since Jeff Tedford became the team's head coach in 2002. The first two of Cal's six first-round picks since Tedford's arrival came in 2003 with the selections of quarterback Kyle Boller (Baltimore Ravens, 19th overall) and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (Oakland Raiders, 31st overall). Quarterback Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay, 24th overall) was a first-round pick in 2007, while center Alex Mack (Cleveland Browns, 21st overall) accomplished the feat in 2009.
"We're proud to have three players selected in the NFL Draft this season, including two in the first round and six in the first round in the last eight years," said Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. "I would like to think it means that we're recruiting talented players to the Cal football program that continue to develop their football skills once they are here at Cal."
Alualu and Best become the fourth pair of Cal players to have been selected in the first round of the NFL Draft with the most recent being the combination of Boller and Asomugha in 2003. The Golden Bears also had two first-round selections in back-to-back years in 1996 and 1997. Defensive linemen Regan Upshaw (Tampa Bay, 12th overall) and Duane Clemons (Minnesota, 16th overall) were taken in 1996, before tight end Tony Gonzalez (Kansas City, 13th overall) and offensive lineman Tarik Glenn (Indianapolis, 19th overall) followed the next year.
Cal was the only Pac-10 team with a player drafted in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. The Bears had never had two first-round selections while no other Pac-10 team had a single one. The last Pac-10 team to have had two players selected in the first round without another conference player being selected was USC in 1970 when former Trojans defensive end Al Cowlings (Buffalo, 5th overall) and offensive tackle Sid Smith (Kansas City, 26th overall) were both picked in the first round.
Alualu earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors for the first time in his career as a senior in 2009, was a third-team selection on the national All-College Football Insider squad and earned four team awards (Brick Muller Award - Most Valuable Defensive Lineman; Joe Roth Award - Player best exemplifying courage, attitude and sportsmanship; Cort Majors Captain - Defense; Senior Lifter of the Year). Alualu led all Pac-10 defensive linemen with a career-high 65 tackles that ranked third on the team overall, while he also paced the Bears with 7.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss to rank among league leaders in the latter categories with per-game averages of 0.58 sacks (No. 7 Pac-10) and 0.88 tackles for loss (No. 10 Pac-10). Alualu played in the 2010 Under Armour Senior Bowl following the season, contributing a four-yard sack of 2007 Heisman Trophy winner and former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow in the North's 31-13 victory.
Alualu also had a productive season in 2008 when he earned second-team All-Pac-10 honors as the 62 tackles he posted were the most by a Golden Bears defensive lineman since Clemons had 82 in 1995. He added 6.0 sacks (No. 11 Pac-10) and 11.0 tackles for loss (No. 16 Pac-10).
In his first year as a full-time starter in 2007, Alualu paced Cal's defensive linemen with 52 tackles, including 3.5 tackles for loss, after he had seen action in all 13 games, made his first career start and contributed 16 tackles as a 2006 redshirt freshman.
Alualu played in all 52 games possible with 40 starts over his four-year Cal career (2006-09), including a run of 39 consecutive starts over his final three seasons. His final career numbers were highlighted by 195 tackles to go along with 16.0 sacks (-111 yards), 26.0 tackles for loss (-134 yards), seven passes defended, four forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, a blocked kick, an interception that he returned eight yards and 11 pass breakups. Alualu returned one of the four fumbles he recovered four yards for a touchdown against Arizona in 2007.
"I am so pleased that Tyson Alualu has been selected by Jacksonville with the 10th overall pick of this year's draft," said Tedford. "I truly feel that he will make a huge contribution to the Jaguars. The mark he left on the Cal football program will be remembered for a very long time. Not only is he an excellent football player, he is a very special person that we will miss tremendously both on and off the field."
"I was just sitting around, not thinking about getting picked," said Alualu. "It came as a shock. It's just crazy how everything worked out. The Jaguars told me they were interested in me, but I never thought they would pick me in the top 10. I thought they would trade down if they wanted me."
Best played in 31 games and started 19 contests during his three seasons at Cal (2007-09), foregoing his final year of collegiate eligibility when he announced on January 2, 2010, that he would enter the 2010 NFL Draft. He participated in the 2010 NFL Scouting Combine on February 28, 2010, and recorded the fastest time by a running back in both the 40-yard dash (4.35) and three-cone drill (6.75). His 40-yard dash time was the event's third-fastest overall.
Best's career at Cal included a second-team All-America selection by College Football News in 2008 and a pair of first-team All-Pac-10 honors (2007, '08). He finished his collegiate days ranked seventh on the school's all-time rushing list with 2,668 yards on 364 carries. His 29 rushing touchdowns are tied for third on the school's all-time chart, while his 35 total touchdowns are fourth. Best's three career 200-yard rushing games are the most ever by a Cal player and he is also among the school's all-time leaders in all-purpose running yards (4,045, No. 5), 100-yard rushing games (13, No. 6) and scoring (210 points, No. 9). Best recorded 34 career rushes of 20+ yards to go along with 11 of 60+ yards and four of 80 or more, including a career-long 93-yard touchdown run at UCLA in 2009 that was the third-longest in school history.
Despite missing the final four contests of the 2009 season due to an injury, Best rushed for 867 yards on 141 carries (6.1 ypc) and scored 16 touchdowns overall (12 rushing, 4 receiving) in nine games played and eight starts. Best was one of the country's top Heisman Trophy candidates during the early stages of the campaign and was named one of 16 national semifinalists for the Maxwell Award given annually to the nation's top collegiate football on Nov. 4. But three days later he suffered a season-ending injury when he landed hard in the end zone at Memorial Stadium on a seven-yard touchdown run against Oregon State. Best still earned an honorable mention 2009 All-America selection from Pro Football Weekly and second-team All-Pac-10 honors, and shared Cal's Offensive Team MVP honors with fellow tailback Shane Vereen. He was also honored by the College Football Performance Awards with the 2009 Elite Running Back Trophy.
Best's 16 total touchdowns in 2009 were only one shy of Cal's modern-era single-season record and two short of the school's all-time single-season mark. He completed the regular season with a scoring average of 10.67 points per game that ranked second in the Pac-10 and third nationally, and was also among the conference per-game leaders in rushing (96.33 ypg, No. 4) and all-purpose running (122.0 ypg, No. 9) at the conclusion of the regular season. However, by missing the final four games he did not qualify for the year-end national or conference statistical leaders because he did not participate in the required 75% of a team's contests. His season was highlighted when he was named the Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week for his performance on Sept. 19 when he rushed for 131 yards and a school-record-tying five touchdowns on a career-high 26 carries to lead Cal to a 35-21 win at Minnesota. He was also selected by the College Football Performance Awards for weekly honors on five occasions and was the only running back in the nation to earn recognition from the CFPA in each of the first three weeks of the season after beginning the campaign with three consecutive 100-yard contests.
Best rushed for 1,580 yards on 194 carries and a school-record-tying 15 touchdowns on the ground in his 2008 sophomore campaign to earn second-team All-America honors from College Football News and a first-team All-Pac-10 selection as a running back. The rushing yardage ranks as the second-highest single-season total in school history with his 8.1 yards per carry a single-season school record. He ranked third in the country in rushing yards per game (131.67) and entered the 2009 campaign as the nation's leading returning rusher in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) for both average yards per game and average yards per carry for any player with at least 125 rushes in 2008. Best earned Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week honors three times in 2008 and also tied for the conference lead in scoring with an average of 8.0 points per game while pacing the league in kick return average (26.3 ypr). In addition, Best set a Cal single-game record when he rushed for 311 yards on 19 carries while adding four rushing touchdowns in a regular-season finale victory over Washington. He was named Offensive MVP of the team's Emerald Bowl win over Miami by rushing for a bowl-record 186 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Best had all three of his career 200-yard games in 2008, preceding his school-record effort against Washington with 201 vs. Stanford and 200 at Washington State.
Best burst onto the scene at Cal as a true freshman in 2007 when he was named a first-team All-Pac-10 player on special teams. He saw action as a kick returner and a gunner on kick coverage, while also contributing 221 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries (7.6 ypc) in 10 games off the bench as a backup tailback. He was named Cal's Most Valuable Freshman and also received the J. Scott Duncan Award (Cal's Most Valuable Special Teams Player).
"Jahvid Best is a talented young man with special athletic skills that are immediately evident when he steps on a football field," said Tedford. "His speed is electrifying and his overall skill set will translate well at the NFL level. The Detroit Lions will be able to utilize him in a number of different ways. He is a versatile player who is much tougher than many people think. He can play every down if needed, but he can also be useful in specific roles catching the ball out of the backfield or returning kicks."
He recorded a career-high 78 tackles as a sophomore in 2007, while making four of his seven career picks and tying Cal's single-season mark with 18 passes defended in 2008. He also set an all-time Cal single-game record and a Pac-10 season-high for interception return yards in 2008 when he had 108 in a victory at Washington State. One of the interception returns against the Cougars was a 90-yarder that set up a Cal score and was the fifth-longest in school history, as well as the second-longest in the Pac-10 in 2008.
Off the field, he was honored during his 2009 senior campaign as one of 22 national winners of the Academic Momentum Award as part of the Scholar-Baller program, in conjunction with the National Consortium for Academics and Sports (NCAS). Thompson was honored for improving his GPA to 2.995 during the spring of 2009 after a period on academic probation following his first year at Cal. He also received the team's 2009 Ken Harvey Award given to the player showing special academic commitment and improvement.
"I feel blessed and happy that somebody selected me with their pick," said Thompson. "Syd'Quan is one of the toughest players I have ever coached and the fact that he set a school record by starting all 52 games possible while at Cal proves that toughness," said Tedford. "He relishes the personal battles that cornerbacks engage in with wide receivers on a regular basis during a football game."
Check back on CalBears.com and the Bear Blog to find out if any other former Cal players sign NFL free agent contracts or sign up with a team from another professional football league in the upcoming days.