Dec. 22, 2011
By Herb Benenson
Mitchell Schwartz earned a rare distinction this season - first-team All-Pac-12 awards for both his play on the field and performance in the classroom. It's a double honor only two others in the conference can match.
However, Schwartz doesn't put too much stock in such accolades, at least not now. In his world of a "one day at a time" approach, he admittedly hasn't taken the time to reflect on what all the recognition means.
"My parents are probably more proud of it than I am," said Schwartz, Cal's 6-6, 318-pound senior offensive tackle. "I think it will be a lot cooler in the future when I can look back and understand the importance of it."
Instead, Schwartz's focus is on the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl and Cal's Dec. 28 date with Texas in San Diego. The Bears missed out on the postseason in 2010 - their first bowl-less campaign since 2002 - and are understandably excited about the prospect of facing a Big 12 opponent on national TV.
"Getting back to a bowl was one of our goals after last year," Schwartz said. "To be able to play Texas is awesome. We've got a decent amount of guys from Texas. I know the guys are really excited. It shows in practice with some bouncing around and having some fun."
The Holiday Bowl contest will mark the 51st consecutive start for Schwartz along the offensive line. He has started every game possible during the last four seasons, playing both left and right tackle his freshman and sophomore years before settling in as Cal's left tackle the past two seasons. His 51 career starts will be one shy of Syd'Quan Thompson's school record of 52.
Coaches, at Cal and throughout the Pac-12, certainly took notice of his abilities at the position. A three-time recipient of the school's Brick Muller Award as the team's most valuable lineman, Schwartz earned honorable mention all-conference notice as a sophomore, second-team honors as a junior and first-team status this year.
Academically, he claimed first-team recognition in 2011 for the first time after being an honorable mention choice his first three seasons. In addition to Schwartz, three other Bears gained a spot on the first team - offensive lineman Mark Brazinski, defensive lineman Ernest Owusu and fullback John Tyndall. A total of nine Cal players earned distinction on one of the all-academic teams, giving the Bears 103 selections over the past 10 years under head coach Jeff Tedford, second most in the Pac-12.
In the classroom, Schwartz majored in American studies, with an emphasis on human development and identity, which combined classes in psychology, sociology and education.
"It's always been interesting to me how people develop," said Schwartz, who may pursue a career in sports psychology when his playing days are finished. "When people are born, it's kind of a blank slate. But how do people come out so different? That's obviously one of the mysteries of life. You see twins, and they're very different but also very similar. That kind of stuff has always interested me - the psychology of the different types of things and why people do the things they do."
Schwartz sees some of the psychology he has studied in action on the football field, especially in the concept of team culture where players often tend to push themselves harder when they are working for others and not just themselves.
"You can do more as a unit than you can individually, although you should be able to do just as much by yourself as you do as a team," he said.
Schwartz completed his degree requirements during the fall when he had to take just two classes, and he went through graduation ceremonies on campus last May. Those steps completed a process that began when he was being recruiting out of Palisades Charter High School in Pacific Palisades. Now a fifth-year senior, Schwartz clearly appreciates the combination of skills it takes to succeed as a student-athlete.
"I think they play into each other," Schwartz said of his academic and athletic honors. "One of the big things that all the coaches tell you is that you really have to be good at time management, especially at a place like Cal where school is more demanding. It's kind of a testament to being able to handle both school and football and to sort it out in a timely manner."