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January 15, 2008

One to Remember

DeSean Jackson announced to the nation three years ago that he was coming to Cal under tremendous fanfare. So there was no reason to believe he wouldn't leave Berkeley in much the same fashion. On the last day for underclassmen to officially declare for the NFL draft, coach Jeff Tedford's most heralded recruit to date decided to forgo his senior season and instead enter his name in the April's NFL draft.

1 to Remember

Bottom line, Jackson's three-year career in the Blue & Gold will go down in the school record books. Always one that desires the flashy, Jackson backed up his glitz and glamour the best and only way an athlete can by performing on the field on a consistent level that eventually propelled him to All-American status.

Hyped by the Cal football office as a Heisman contender this season, No. 1 even had a personal website dedicated to his candidacy.

A former Rivals.com five-star wide receiver (and one of only two five-star athletes Cal has nabbed to date) coming out of Long Beach (Calif.) Poly High School, Jackson stepped onto campus from Day 1 and became Cal's most explosive receiving threat. Jackson helped Tedford continue a trend of offensive prowess that looked to stretch defenses down the field with quick strike scores and long 20 + yard routes.

Not one that is afraid to make bold statements, Jackson stood on the podium after Cal's impressive victory over Texas A&M in the Holiday Bowl last year and declared that the Bears were going to win the National Title this season.

Although Cal obviously didn't come close to attaining that ultimate goal, Jackson himself had a big hand in numerous Cal victories this season, including a spectacular 11 catch, 161-yard, two touchdown performance against No. 11 Oregon at Autzen Stadium that for at least a week, propelled him to the top of Heisman Trophy consideration.

Jackson hauled in a total of 65 balls this year for 762 yards and six touchdowns this season.

For his career, the explosive wide out accumulated 28 touchdowns in 36 career games. Jackson also had nine 100-yard receiving games and ranks sixth all-time on school's receptions list, third in receiving yards and third receiving touchdowns.

A consensus All-American, Jackson was just as dynamic in the punt return game, showing off a propensity for the big play and electrifying fans every time a punt sailed in the air. His 38 career punt returns of 16.7 yard average are etched in school history with six career punt return touchdowns (many of which were of highlight reel fashion).

DeSean Highlights

"My family and I were faced with another emotionally and exhausting decision," Jackson said. "My teammates are my family. The fans at Cal are my family. Coach Tedford is my family. After evaluating the pros and cons with the blessings from God above, going to the NFL was the right decision for me. The last two weeks have been exhausting. A lot of sleepless night. This was a tough decision."

To Go Pro or No?

In the beginning moments of his press conference to officially announce his intentions to go pro Tuesday afternoon, the 6-foot, 173-pound Jackson read a statement that painted a unique life journey that ran into professional crossroads long before this week.

Jackson spoke of his hype coming out of Long Beach Poly, his multi-sport prowess and his decision to forgo the MLB draft as an amateur and instead stick with football. The athletic Jackson was a solid baseball prospect in high school just as much as he was a prospect on the gridiron.

"I remember going to the major league baseball recruiting process," Jackson said. "I weighed the pros and cons. It was difficult but I was not mentally or emotionally prepared (at the time)."

Spurning the Hometown

In his senior year in high school, Jackson was the biggest high school athlete name in Southern California. With scholarship offers form essentially every college program in the country, many expected (and speculated) that Jackson would take his talents to nearby powerhouse USC.

But on the night of Signing Day 2005, sitting in a Southern California News Room with the hats of USC and Cal in front of him, Jackson shocked everyone who followed his recruiting process by putting on the Bears hat.

Claiming a need to start anew, Jackson revisited his decision Tuesday afternoon.

"The experience I had at Cal, I wouldn't change it for anything," Jackson said. "I got called several names for not going 'SC. People said I was stupid and all that. I disappointed all the 'SC fans. But I just felt a connection with Coach Tedford and it was a great situation for me."

"A lot of my teammates through this whole process contacted me and asked me what I was going to do," Jackson continued. "A lot of my teammates with love for me to come back and try to win a national championship. Coach Tedford turned the program around tremendously and the recruiting class that came in 2005 made this a very special place. I thought we started off real well this year and we could've won the national championship. It just didn't work out."

D-Jax Means More Than 1

Coach Tedford was perfectly honest when he was asked to describe Jackson's impact on the Bears' program over the last three years.

Tedford was quick to note that Jackson's presence meant more than just one outstanding athlete on a good team. The two-time Pac-10 coach of the year rung off statements that said Jackson's impact will be felt long after Jackson starts to suit up on Sundays.

"He's a big time player and he's excited to take the next step and he's been a major part of our success," Tedford said. "Besides his abilities on the football field it opened up an avenue for other recruits that athletes can reach out. I use him as an example all the time (to recruits) that you have to do what is best for yourself. There's no question that he has helped in the recruiting process."

"(DeSean) is truthful when he says it was a tough decision for him," Tedford continued. "When he submitted his evaluation for the NFL it came back as him being a first round pick. That's very hard for anybody to turn down."

On to the NFL

A consensus first round pick on all mock drafts so far, Jackson could very well become the first wide receiver taken in this year's draft. More than likely, according to experts such as ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., Jackson will battle it out with Oklahoma's Malcolm Kelly to hold that distinction.

"His speed," Tedford said when asked of Jackson's best attribute. "He brings a dimension to the game that is different than a lot of people. With his speed he is a game-breaker. That's very attractive to the NFL. There's no question that with his ability, great hands, great body control, excellent speed, that he will bring a lot of positives to a team."

Jackson himself noted that along with his abilities to catch the ball, his skills as a punt return played just as big of a factor in his final decision to go pro.

"I think the things that I can bring to an NFL team are obvious," Jackson said. "(Chicago Bears superstar) Devin Hester helped me out a lot with returning kicks. Being a game-breaker, a game-changer, teams need people like that. Returning kicks had a lot to do with my decision."

So what does Jackson need to do to improve his stock?

""It's a no brainer," he said. "My size, my weight, being able to get mentally and physically ready for the NFL is the biggest thing. I'm going to have to put everything together. I have to dedicate myself 24 hours to get ready. Honestly right now I'm staying close to what I know. The people that I've been working out with since I've been young. I don't really want to change too much."

The Future at Cal

With Jackson officially gone, plus the graduation of standouts Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan, who are both expected to get drafted as well, there is unquestionably a BIG hole to fill come next season.

The dynamic trio combined to grab 184 receptions this season, which is 97.3 percent of the catches that came from Cal receivers this year.

Tedford shed some light on who he might expect to come in.

"The young guys that are there right now, Mike Calvin, Jeremy Ross, Alex Lagemann, those guys are all very talented," he described. "LaReylle Cunningham has had some game experience as well. But we feel very good about our recruiting class right now at that position. We will be young but we are going to be talented."

And on the status of Nyan Boateng, a transfer from Florida who's status is still up in the air for next year?

"I have not spoken with Nyan as of yet," Tedford said. "I'll speak with him next week."



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