Former Defensive Stars Fill Critical Voids for NFL Teams
Thursday, October 7, 2010
Category: Sports > Fall > Football
"Defense, Bears, Defense" is a go-to chant for mic men (and women) regardless of the next play, the score, or whatever personnel are on the field. The only requirement is that at that given moment, Cal is playing defense. This week, we look at three former Bears who took that chant to heart and represented whenever they set foot on the turf.
A feared presence in his four years in Berkeley, Thomas DeCoud has made a seamless transition from college game to the professional gridiron. A third-round pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2008, DeCoud has quickly become a coveted defender in an improving Falcons' defense.
The Pinole, Calif. native has emerged as one of the top young prospects on a youthful defense that has enjoyed a successful start to the 2010 campaign. Despite appearing in limited action in his rookie season, DeCoud established himself as one of the best defensive backs on the team in 2009. All three of Decoud's interceptions last season came in victories that would be decided by only one possession.
DeCoud already has one interception to add to his career this season, a nifty grab from Super Bowl-winning quarterback Drew Brees, which allowed the Falcons to tie the game en route to a 27-24 upset of the New Orleans Saints.
Watching opposing quarterbacks pick Cal apart from the comfort of the pocket last season, many fans may have longed for a disruptive pass-rusher off the edge.
Our featured Bear in the Pro was just that throughout his years in Berkeley. A Bay Area product from Sunnvyale's Fremont High School, Banta-Cain went on to place third on Cal's all-time sack list. His 26.5 quarterback take-downs rank him only behind Reagan Upshaw and Andre Carter.
After finishing his Cal career with a 13-sack campaign in 2002 that earned him All Pac-10 First Team honors, Banta-Cain was taken in the seventh round by the New England Patriots. He has gone on to be a mainstay along New England's defensive line, earning a pair back-to-back Super Bowl rings in 2004 and 2005.
Banta-Cain returned briefly to the Bay Area for an unspectacular two-year stint with San Francisco. Now in his second stint in the Northeast, he has made the 49ers think twice about releasing him.
Banta-Cain set career highs in tackles (35) and sacks (10) in 2009, and currently has 1.5 quarterback takedowns through four games this fall.
The Seattle Seahawks are becoming "California Northwest". The Seahawks traded for former Cal running back Marshawn Lynch on Tuesday, who joins other ex-Bears Justin Forsett, Mike Gibson and Mebane.
A ferocious force on the defensive line during his four seasons at Cal, Mebane has emerged as a reliable pass-rusher and run-stuffer for Pete Carroll's new team, and looks like he may be headed for a decent tenure up north.
With one sack, a pass deflection and eight tackles to start 2010, the Los Angeles native looks like a staple for the Seahawks.
Contact Gabriel Baumgaertner and Ed Yevlev at [email protected]
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