Need for speed

Do-Everything Back Shane Vereen Has Split Time This Spring Between The Football Field and the Track

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Cal tailback Shane Vereen

Vereen talks spring ball, his track endeavors and his growing role within the Cal football team.


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Jahvid Best is the one that gets the Heisman hype.

The rising junior is the one that "everyone in the country knows about," according to Cal quarterback Kevin Riley.

So why exactly is Best jealous of fellow Bears tailback Shane Vereen?

"My track career is over," says Best. "I'm done with it."

Vereen's, meanwhile, is about to hit a different slope.

The rising redshirt sophomore has been splitting time with the Cal track and football teams, but with the conclusion of spring practices, Vereen will now be spending more of his time running in circles rather than north-and-south.

Vereen said that he plans on participating in the 4x100-meter relay and possibly the 100-meter dash. His goal is to run in the 10.4-10.5 seconds range in the latter-"It's a little late in the season," says Vereen, insinuating that his goals would be higher had he had more time to prepare.

"It's gonna be pretty good for this university," says Best. "I feel like he can score points for the track team, so it's gonna be pretty good ... I wish I could do it, too."

Vereen will return to football at the end of track's Pac-10 season, according to the tailback. So far, coaches on all fronts have been keen on not overworking the Bears' all-utility back.

"They're doing a great job helping me manage it, so that I'm not overworking myself," says Vereen. "That was one thing coach (Jeff) Tedford said to make sure I don't overwork myself. So as long as I can take care of my body, take care of treatments and stuff like that, I should be good."

Vereen was a standout track performer at Valencia High in Valencia, Calif., recording the fastest 100-yard dash time of any junior in Southern California during the 2006 track and field season, so there isn't much of a novelty for him in switching sports in the middle of the year.

Still, the track and football teams are unavoidably distinct-starting from the teammates.

"The biggest thing I think with football and track is that in football, there are so many more (guys), so you get a lot more characters, a lot more goofing around and stuff like that," says Vereen. "But track is a smaller group, so everything's a little bit different. Both of them are good."

He then added about being the new guy: "I knew a couple of the guys on the track team, just going to school with them. So there was a little bit of that new-guy thing, but I met everyone, and I'm not really the new guy anymore."

But as much as Vereen fits the bill as a runner, at this point in his career he's unmistakably a football player running track. He said that he'll return to Memorial Stadium to lift weights and study film individually as time permits.

Having sent off the seniors to graduation and the NFL Draft, Vereen also noted that his need to emerge as a leader on the football team has become more apparent. But entering his third year and second season at Cal, Vereen didn't seem too burdened by the veteran tag.

"It feels a lot different," Vereen says of the spring atmosphere. "Just the whole (running backs coach Ron Gould's) talk about being mature, the maturity level and being mentally tough, it grows with you as you go through years and days of practice. It grows and you start to develop, and the longer you've been out here, the more you know and the better you're prepared."

Tedford mentioned at the start of spring practices that he plans on using Vereen in a similar role to the one that he filled last year-a back that does a little bit of everything. Vereen rushed for 715 yards while catching 27 balls in 2007.

The tailback doesn't seem to have a problem preparing for such a role, either.

"I work hard at all positions," says Vereen. "I'm trying to learn the offense as a whole. That way, no matter where the game plan puts me, I'll be OK.

"The biggest thing for me (in the spring) was to improve in all aspects of the game. Going out every day in practice, trying to get a little better, trying to improve a little more in my pass protection, in my running the ball, in my catching the ball. You can never stop getting better."

Even though not as many people might notice, with Best getting much of the national headlines?

"You know, I'm working just as hard," Vereen says with a laugh. "It's OK. Jahvid deserves all the credit he gets. He's a phenomenal athlete, a phenomenal football player. It's a pleasure playing with him."

And he continues with the ultimate company line, which may be more or less true in their case:

"We learn from each other. I think we make each other better."

Tags: JAHVID BEST, SHANE VEREEN, CAL TRACK AND FIELD, CAL FOOTBALL


Contact Andrew Kim at [email protected]



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