Oct. 24, 2012
BERKELEY -By Tim Miguel
With this season marking the 30th anniversary of The Play from the 1982 Big Game, Cal fans will be reminiscing about the key moments from the five-lateral classic kickoff return and the instrumental Cal players involved like Kevin Moen, Richard Rodgers, Dwight Garner and Mariet Ford.
But don't worry. That's not your mind playing tricks on you when you hear the name Richard Rodgers over the loudspeaker in today's 2012 edition of the Big Game. The name won't be in reference to the player who took part in the historic play back in 1982. You're hearing the name of his son and Cal's current tight end, Richard Rodgers.
The Golden Bears' current Rodgers said hearing about his dad's key role during The Play wasn't a major influence in his decision to come to Cal, but rather the fact that his dad was a Bear in general played a major influence in his decision.
"The first time I ever heard about The Play was when I was in the third or fourth grade," Rodgers said. "I heard the story one time of the whole day and what happened during The Play. My dad doesn't really tell it often. It's a treat when he does."
Rodgers takes a lot of pride in what his dad contributed, not only in the 1982 Big Game, but throughout his entire tenure at Cal. According to those who witnessed The Play and the 1982 Big Game, Rodgers is accurate in his praise of his father.
"The crucial figure in that return was Richard Rodgers, the special teams captain," said John Crumpacker, Cal's current beat writer with the San Francisco Chronicle who covered the 1982 Big Game. "I believe it was him when they huddled up, he said, `Don't fall with the ball.' That was their mantra - don't fall with the ball. Just pitch it and keep it alive. When Rodgers got the ball, that's when the play really came to life. The first couple of pitches were all just right around Cal's 43-yard line, but when Rodgers got the ball the second time, that's when it opened up on the right."
Things may be opening up for the younger Rodgers now, as well. Through the first half of the 2012 season, Rodgers has seen his role steadily increase as he returns to health after a serious of preseason and early-season injuries. He enjoyed a breakout game against UCLA, posting career highs in catches (7) and receiving yards (129), including a career-yard 50-yard reception.
It's a trend that Rodgers hopes will continue. While he knows that being able to associate his name with something as big as The Play is pretty unlikely, Rodgers still hopes he's able to create some of his own memories for the Bears.
"I hope that I make some great plays, but I don't know if they'll ever be of that magnitude because that's obviously one of the best plays in college football history," Rodgers said. "I just hope that I can make a couple of great plays here myself, and that would be satisfying for me."
Today would be a great opportunity for Rodgers to leave his mark, not only with the Cal program, but in the Big Game series history. As The Play has proven to Cal and Stanford fans alike, the Big Game is a contest where records go out the window. Anything can happen in the Big Game.
Rodgers said as much as the team tries to take Big Game week like it's any other week during the regular season, there's a buzz in the air during practice. The coaches and players know that it's a special week.
"I think we try to take it like it's any other game, but we know it's the Big Game and everybody wants to beat Stanford and get after it," Rodgers said. "I think it really amps up practice. We do a couple of special things for practice that week for the younger guys, for the scout team."
Maybe 30 years from now Richard Rodgers III will be talking about coming close to matching the legacy that both his grandfather and father left on the Cal football program.