Two Bears, One Back: Shane Vereen

Shane Vereen Sat and Watched as Cal Slumped In 2007-Today He's Ready to Take the Field

Skyler Reid and Nathan Yan/Staff

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Patience is a virtue, but tailback Shane Vereen has probably had enough.

A celebrated four-star recruit in 2007, the then-freshman found himself tagged with a redshirt, buried under Cal's crowded depth chart and the shadow of fellow prep-star Jahvid Best, as slim as it may have previously been.

Denying yourself of something you've done your entire life isn't easy, but Vereen did it for more than a year. Today, the soft-spoken runner has just about had it with the waiting.

"Sitting out for a reason, redshirting, made me a lot hungrier for the game, a lot more passionate and appreciative of what we're blessed to do here on the field," says Vereen. "It's driven me to work harder than I have ever before."

Understandably, Vereen says this past season was hard to watch from the sidelines, initially for the fact that he wasn't allowed to play a single snap.

But sitting out as the team posted five straight wins out the gates was one thing. Being reduced to a bystander while his teammates were reduced to mediocrity was another, bringing about just as much helplessness as frustration in Vereen.

"It was tough to watch," he says. "It was especially tough because there's nothing you can really do about it. For me, I was kind of helpless because I wasn't playing. You can tell just by watching, the toll that (the 2-6 finish) took on the rest of the team and the guys that were playing."

Slated to split carries in 2008, Vereen will finally get what he wished for, a hiked share of the burden.

With the departures of Justin Forsett and James Montgomery, the next big thing in the Bears' backfield could be just about anyone. Even rookie Covaughn DeBoskie, who may redshirt as he fills out his big-body frame, described the camp situation as a "big battle zone."

From the incumbent trio of Vereen, Best and the rumbling Tracy Slocum, any one of the three could emerge as the next fan favorite. Or the next 1000-yard runner.

"I'm ready for whatever changes may come," Vereen says. "I'm still gonna be the same person. I'm not gonna change because I might be playing or whatnot. I'll still be the same, it's just that maybe people will know me now, that's all."

With a disposition that's as steady as they come, Vereen leaves little room to suggest that his on-field production will contradict his persona. If the coaching staff is to be believed, perhaps his play will be a bit more electric than his speech.

"I think the guy you're gonna be impressed with is Shane Vereen," coach Jeff Tedford announced to a table of Pac-10 media members. "He's very natural playing at the receiver spot, he can play in the slot, you can move him all around and do some things."

Vereen fits the bill quite well as a Cal running back -- a joker off the field, a class act on it and most importantly, a constant exhibitor of humility throughout.

The humble attitude shared by the Bears tailbacks "makes it real easy to associate and call them teammates," says Vereen.

Even when Best is often the one wowing their teammates in practice.

"There's no negativity, no greed or no envy of each other," he says. "When I see him making a play, I'm like, 'OK, now I want to make a good play as well,' you know," says Vereen. "We use each other as motivation for each other, to drive one another just to be better players."

Off the field, however, Best concedes that Vereen is the better player judging from the times -- which is every day, according to Best -- they've spent together.

"Shane's a ladies man," says Best. "He might seem kind of quiet just like me, but Shane can get the talkin'."

The rest of us, meanwhile, will have to wait to see how big of a heartthrob Vereen can be on Saturdays -- though he might impress just as many men.


Contact Andrew Kim at [email protected]

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