BERKELEY – Six hundred Cal student-athletes thought they were just eating dinner Tuesday night.
Little did they know they were being watched.
Senior Derek White of the track & field team had a plan. Shortly, he would be doing his rendition of the Sexy Sax Man, and he had to figure out which table at The Oskis to go visit as he walked around the Haas Pavilion floor recreating the sax solo from George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.”
“While I was eating, I was staking out the people,” White said.
White joined track teammates Maggie Simpson, Noel Frazier and Isaac Dan for the performance, which one was one many highlights from the fourth annual Oskis, the year-end awards/talent show for Cal student-athletes.
After the first set of awards kicked off the show, White and his teammates did their thing. White slithered through tables to serenade unsuspecting student-athletes, finishing with girlfriend Alicia Asturias of the women’s gymnastics team.
After playing saxophone for seven or eight years as a kid, White said he didn’t play for about four or five years. He started practicing again about a month before The Oskis.
“We probably practiced that whole thing together about three times. Every time, it was terrible,” White said. “We pulled it together. When I got up here, I had so much support from my friends and all my fellow athletes. I knew that I was going to be going out in the crowd so I just had to have that mentality of just making a complete idiot of myself.”
White would be heard from again after his parade through the crowd, as would Asturias. White was named the Male Athlete of the Year while Asturias was chosen as the Female Athlete of the Year. Voting was done in real-time by the student-athletes in the crowd, who would text their votes after the nominations were revealed.
Asturias also performed later, singing a rendition of Avicii’s “Addicted To You.”
“It’s a great honor to be respected by your peers and the coaching staff, and everyone here at Cal,” said Asturias, who earned second team All-American honors this season and was the Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year for women’s gymnastics. “I couldn’t be happier.”
The Oskis demonstrated that talent among Cal student-athletes isn’t limited to the playing field. Women’s soccer’s Grace Leer and Pace Johnson from men’s golf sang a terrific version of “Stars” by Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, with Matt Ha of the spirit squad joining in on keyboards. There were a handful of other lively performances, including a remake of Pink’s “Just Give Me A Reason” by women’s water polo’s Kat Menz and baseball’s Vince Bruno, with teammate John Soteropolos on the keyboard.
Leer, Johnson and Ha won the Oski for Best Talent. Leer won the award all four years at Cal.
“Every time I just want to come out and have fun,” Leer said. “It’s such a great experience performing for all my teammates and all Cal athletes. It’s just a great night. All around, it’s awesome to recognize these amazing athletes and just to be a part of it where I can just sing, which I love to do, and perform with people who can play amazing instruments.”
Other highlights included men’s swimming’s Dave Durden being named Coach of the Year and the late Ted Agu from football winning the Oski as the Jill Costello Most Inspirational Student-Athlete. Women’s soccer took the Oski for the Team Community Outreach Award.
“It’s just so wonderful to have such a great group of athletes that are not only good on the field but good in the classroom, as well as just being very, very personable,” White said. “I’ve yet to come across a Cal Bear that has a lack of personality or isn’t very, very humble. It’s just a great, great group of student-athletes here.”