Good LifeDefensive end Cameron Jordan is the latest Cal football player to go to the NFL.
Interview with Cameron JordanThe Daily Cal interviews Cameron Jordan about his last 4 years as a football player and undergraduate at Cal.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
At the beginning of every televised NFL game, recorded player profiles ring up on screen as they say their names and their alma mater. In these few seconds, Cal has sometimes gotten the short end of the stick.
DeSean Jackson opted to represent his high school, Long Beach Poly, for years. Marshawn Lynch has mentioned Oakland Tech High. Even Super Bowl-winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers has given credit to Butte Community College, where he labored in anonymity until Cal coach Jeff Tedford spotted him by chance.
Defensive end Cameron Jordan was drafted 24th overall by the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago, becoming the latest Berkeley product to go in the first round. Will the Arizona native go a similar route?
"Chandler High?" he said. "I mean, Chandler High is my roots. It's where I started off. As far as saying that's where I came from, I did come from there. But I come from here as well. I don't know what's gonna happen in the future, but I rep both for sure."
Cal has become an unlikely NFL pipeline; coming off its first sub-.500 season under Tedford, it's not exactly a national power. But with four more Bears drafted this April, the blue and gold total in the pros now sits at 38. Of those, four are ranked among the league's top 100 by NFL Network. Only Miami and Tennessee have more.
"That's a pretty good geyser," Jordan said.
At the same time, out-of-staters don't immediately associate "Cal" with "UC Berkeley," which, despite deep budget cuts, still often boasts itself as the top public institution in the world. While it is possible to get by with easier classes, trying to skate past the workload here isn't quite the same as doing it at Arizona State.
"It's been a little tougher for sure," said Jordan, a legal studies major. "Once you get to your upper-division classes, you sort of know what classes you just don't wear any football gear to. You don't wear sweats, you don't wear any Cal paraphernalia. You sort of just go in jeans and a casual shirt ... (otherwise) you stick out like a sore thumb."
Measuring in at 6-foot-4, 283 pounds, Jordan has stuck out on campus since committing after around five unofficial trips. He played in all 13 games as a true freshman, returning one fumble for a touchdown.
But it's not terribly surprising that he also enjoys the off-field part of college life. His father, Steve, now works as a civil engineer and played college ball at Brown University before becoming a Pro Bowl tight end with the Minnesota Vikings.
For Jordan, Cal is also a place where he's matured from a teenager who was arrested on suspicion of DUI. Jordan was picked up on his way from a party, spent six hours in a cell and served a one-game suspension to start the 2008 season.
"After that happened, it's like the world crashed, ground split, glass shattered," he said. "It was like, 'All right, it's time to wake the hell up and realize I'm an adult.' ... When you're in a holding cell, you don't go to sleep."
Since then, he's become a leader on the team while maintaining his jokester side. He has all the physical tools but also came off in scouting reports as a high-character player.
Jordan will leave for New Orleans next week, still a few units short of graduating. He'll hold off on that until he takes off his pads for good.
"They say a Cal degree goes far," Jordan said. "We'll see how far it goes after I get done with the NFL."
Contact Jack Wang at [email protected]
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