Four Bears taken in NFL Draft

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Before Cal football team's 2010 campaign, the idea that Shane Vereen, the squad's biggest offensive weapon, and Mike Mohamed, the anchor of its stingy defense, would be drafted seemed certain.

Not so much for inconsistent defensive back Chris Conte, who was struggling just to get a starting job.

All three will be playing in the NFL next season.

The three former Bears were selected in the 2011 NFL Draft this weekend at Radio City Music Hall in New York City - Vereen by New England in the second round, Mohamed to Denver in the sixth and Conte in the third by Chicago.

Cal's defensive end Cameron Jordan was a first round selection on Thursday, taken 24th overall by the New Orleans.

Not too many people would have pegged Conte to be drafted, much less in the third round, after three seasons in Berkeley as a reserve cornerback. His senior year he switched to safety and became an All-Pac-10 first teamer, recording 72 tackles, third most on the team, while starting all 12 games.

He was elated when he received the phone call from the Chicago Bears as the 93rd overall pick.

"That was probably the most exciting moment I've ever had," Conte said. "It was the culmination of a whole bunch of different feelings."

Because of his inexperience, scouts argue that Conte has room to improve. He won't be a star but he could be a solid reserve, particularly with his strong tackling and possible role on special teams.

Unlike Conte, Vereen had always been a sure bet to be drafted - just not where.

He was chosen by the New England Patriots as the 56th overall pick. The running back, who opted to enter the draft after his junior year, rushed for 1,167 yards and scored 13 touchdowns in 2010 to earn second team All-Pac-10 honors..

"This is very exciting for me and my family, Vereen said. "It's testament to Cal running backs, a testament to the University of California. I'm just looking forward to this opportunity that I've always dreamed of."

The Valencia, Calif., native follows in the footsteps of recent Cal running backs now in the NFL, including Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett and Jahvid Best. Vereen's career totals in Berkeley rank among the best. The 5-foot-10, 204-pounder is tied for third in program history with 29 total rushing touchdowns, tied for fourth in total touchdowns with 35 and ranks fifth with 4,069 all-purpose yards.

Scout don't see too high of a ceiling for Vereen, citing his size and speed, but his versatility in catching out of the back field, blocking and vision should provide him a healthy NFL career.

Mohamed was to the Bears' defense what Vereen was to the offense: a consistent, steadying force.

The linebacker may not have the athleticism and physical tools to start for the Denver Broncos, who drafted him with the 189th overall pick, but he is considered to be a hard worker with good instincts and high character.

"It was very tough. I was very stressed out," Mohamed said of the wait into the sixth round on Saturday. "It was long. I'm just really glad its over."

Mohamed was named to the All-Pac-10 second team in 2010 after pacing Cal with 95 tackles. His 2009 campaign was even more impressive. The Brawley, Calif., native led the conference in tackles with 112 and led the Bears with three interceptions.

None were more critical than the one he caught from Stanford's Andrew Luck in the Big Game to clinch the victory for the Bears. The rivalry made for an interesting dialogue when Mohamed spoke with former Cardinal and Bronco standout John Elway, now the latter's executive vice president of football operations, after being picked.

"Imagine a Stanford guy picking a Cal guy," Elway told him.


Contact Jonathan Kuperberg at [email protected]

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