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October 19, 2011
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Last national signing day, California defensive back early-enrollee Avery Sebastian -- then going by Avery Walls -- played for the US Under-19 National Team in Austin, Tex., against a team of 45 international prep football players.
With the first group of players announced to participate in this year's contest, yet another future Bears defender was named to the roster: linebacker commit Hardy Nickerson, Jr..
The three-star recruit out of Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd is having a banner season playing for his father - and former Cal and NFL star Hardy Nickerson, Sr., -- and the Dragons, recording 82 tackles through six games, to go along with a sack, an interception, two passes defended, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
"I got the invite, I want to say in early August, late July," Nickerson, Jr., said. "It happened right after I committed. I thought about it and I decided that it was what I wanted to do, and I thought it was a great event to take part in."
O'Dowd started the season with two straight losses, but has been on a role ever since, in large part thanks to Nickerson, Jr. The 6-foot-. 218-pound linebacker has also been toting the rock a bit for the Dragons, grinding out 247 yards on 39 carries.
"It's been going great," Nickerson, Jr., said of the season thus far. "The first two games, we got off to a little rocky start. We started 0-2, but we've been on a four-game win streak, undefeated in league.
"I've been playing inside, and I've been playing a little bit of outside, too, just in different variations. It depends because we have a lot of different packages, and they want me to move to outside in one package or stay inside, or move out and cover slot, so I'm all over."
Nickerson, Sr., runs a base 4-3 defense, but like current Bears defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast, runs multiple looks, which has allowed his son to get a taste of the kind of high-level concepts he'll be playing with at the next level.
"Oh yeah," Nickerson, Jr., laughed. ":We also have variations like Bear -- we have a 3-4 variation, and we have a lot of different things to keep the offense on its heels."
Nickerson, Jr., will wait until his senior season is over before taking his official visit to Berkeley as part of Cal's big recruiting weekend.
"When I talked with coach Tedford early on, he said that he likes to get guys there during bowl week or after the season, so they can get their full two days in so we can just get to be with the coaches and have a good time," Nickerson, Jr., said.
Until he gets to don the blue and gold, though, he'll be more than happy pulling on the red, white and blue.
"I'm very excited," Nickerson, Jr., said. "Just to get that opportunity to represent the country and play on a big stage, it was kind of a no-brainer. How could I not play in it?"