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Just Fellow Bears, But With Athletic Talent

May 24, 2010

I’ve always been a huge sports fan. Growing up, I cheered on my favorite teams from my living room and from the stands, and idolized my favorite players. Of course, I was always rooting for athletes that were older than me.

But as a student at Cal, the school’s athletes are my peers. Whenever I walk around on campus or on nearby streets, I often see many student-athletes that I root for at games. Here are a few memorable moments in which I actually got the chance to play sports with some of them.

Nathan Adrian is in the back center (Photo credit: Bob Bukaty)

1. My freshman year, I played basketball with a bunch of tall guys who were on Cal’s nationally ranked swim team. One of those guys was Nathan Adrian. All of the swimmers were really tall, and Nathan was probably around 6’6”. Their height kind of gave them an advantage over me and my friends, but they were all awesome guys and it was fun playing a few games with them.

It hadn’t happened yet at the time, but Nathan ended up winning a gold medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, swimming on a Michael Phelps-led 4x100m freestyle relay team. He swam in the preliminary rounds and was the last man cut from the final relay team. That US team went on to swim in one of the most memorable races at those Games, the one that used a miraculous final leg by Jason Lezak to overtake the French team at the wall for gold. Another note, Nathan was recently featured on the TV show Mythbusters to test a “swimming in molasses” theory.

2. Last year, I participated in a Camp Kesem dodgeball tournament, and in one game, was on the opposing team of a group that included defensive end Cameron Jordan. I’ll admit now, I was definitely a little scared when he launched heat-seeking dodgeballs at my body. It felt a little weird to go from cheering him on at Cal football games all season to throwing dodgeballs at him.

7'3'' Max Zhang (Photo credit: Ben Margot)

3. This past semester, I took a couple Haas business classes with linebacker Mike Mohammed, who is a hero among many Cal fans for what he did at this past season’s Big Game against rival Stanford. He caused me and my friends to go absolutely crazy in the stands when we witnessed his game-saving interception to clinch a Cal win.

4. Many times, I’ve walked by star running backs Jahvid Best and Shane Vereen, basketball players Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher, and numerous other athletes. I’ve also walked by the 7’3” center Max Zhang a few times, and let me tell you, he is really tall when you stand right up beside him and look up.

5. Just a few days ago, I played pick-up basketball against defensive backs Sean Cattouse and Josh Hill. I was excited and a little intimidated when I got matched up with Josh Hill, but reasoned that he’s a football player, and we were on a basketball court. The highlight of my day was when I drove toward the hoop and made a running floater/hook shot over the attempted block of Josh Hill. On the next trip down the court, I made another shot. The shots got Josh to mutter, “Dude’s got game.”

Later on in the game, Josh made a couple of shots over me as well. But I’ll take 2-to-2 versus a Pac-10 caliber starting cornerback. Not bad :)

At the end of the day, it’s nice to be able to interact with these star athletes and find out that they are people, just like you and I. It feels a little strange to commonly be among such amazing athletes, but in the end, I realize that they are all just fellow bears, except with athletic talent.

Go Bears!

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