By Jonathan Okanes
Cal Bear Blog
Just like Apollo Creed and Rocky Balboa in “Rocky III,” the mentor wants a piece of the pupil.
Former Cal running back Jahvid Best is back in Berkeley as a full-time student and assisting with the Bears coaching staff. Naturally, Best will be working with Cal’s running backs, and there is one current player in particular in which Best has a special interest.
Best was the California state champion in the 100 meters as a senior at Salesian High School. Current Cal running back Khalfani Muhammad won back-to-back state titles in both the 100 and 200 meters while at Notre Dame High in Southern California.
So while Best may be ready to give one of his new students some pointers, he also wants to measure up against him.
“I’m still fast,” Best said, but adding that he’s not in playing shape. “I ran into (Muhammad) on campus and told him we have to race. I don’t know what he’s thinking about, but every time I see him I want to race.”
Best was all smiles as he was introduced to members of the local media Thursday in an informal gathering in which he discussed his return to school and his role on the coaching staff. Best, an African-American Studies major, is taking a full load of 15 units this semester and said he is basically open to helping out in any way the football program needs him.
“No specific role, but since I’m here and I’ve been through what these guys are going through right now, I can kind of be a mentor,” Best said. “I can kind of just be somebody they can talk to about football, talk about life, talk about school, talk about everything. I have a lot to offer to these young athletes here. That’s what I’m here for, and while I’m doing that, I’m getting my degree.”
Best stressed that he is a student first, with his role with the football program a bonus. He said as soon as it became clear his NFL career was over, he wanted to immediately get back to Berkeley.
“Once my career was over, there was only one place I was going to go back to,” he said. “I just wanted to be part of the Cal family. Once you become part of this family, you never really want to leave.”
Best was a second team All-American at Cal, rushing for 1,580 yards and a school-record-tying 15 touchdowns as sophomore in 2009. He went on to become a first-round NFL draft pick by the Detroit Lions and played for three professional seasons.
“My playing days are over,” Best said. “I knew it was going to happen eventually. Everything happens for a reason. Now I’m excited to go back to school and figure out what’s next to me.”