ORDINARILY, THENEWS that Cal wide receiver DeSean Jackson had accepted money for his on-fieldperformance would have NCAA investigators winging their way toward Berkeley.But fortunately for Jackson and the Bears, there's no prohibition againstplaying for pay when it's a family affair.
The first timecash changed hands was when DeSean was four years old and playing catch withhis big brother Byron. When Byron noticed that little DeSean was having troubleholding on to his Nerf-ball tosses, he added a financial incentive, offeringDeSean five dollars if he could hang on to the next throw. DeSean made thecatch, and for the next three years, through DeSean's flag football career, itseemed that every time Byron put a five-spot on the table, his little brother'shands were made of glue.
Perhaps as soon asnext year, Jackson will make far more than five dollars to catch footballsbecause he just might be the top receiver in the country and could jump to theNFL. But for at least one more season Jackson, a junior, will be Cal's moneyreceiver, figuratively speaking. Last fall he caught 59¬†passes for 1,060yards and nine touchdowns in a breakout season, but the feeling--orfear--around the Pac-10 is that Jackson could easily surpass those numbers thisyear.
In 2006 he wasadjusting to new quarterback Nate Longshore, who had missed the previous seasonwith a broken left leg. After a year together Jackson and Longshore arecompletely familiar with each other, which should make them even moredangerous. The presence of seniors Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan, anadditional pair of productive receivers, will also help keep defenses fromconcentrating too heavily on Jackson. And with the departure of star tailbackMarshawn Lynch (drafted 12th overall by the Buffalo Bills), Cal figures tothrow the ball more often this season. "All the pieces are in place for usto have a big-time passing game," Jackson says. "There should be a lotof balls for everybody. I'm hoping I can add in a few big plays."
Cal is counting onmore than a few, especially since Jackson, who has been timed at 4.3 seconds inthe 40, can be just as dangerous when the ball is kicked to him. Of his seventouchdowns of 40¬†yards or longer last year, four were punt returns, of 95,80, 72 and 65 yards. "The things that set him apart are his instincts andhis vision," says Bears coach Jeff Tedford. "We just try to put him inas many different positions to use his gifts as we can."
Byron, a formerSan Jose State receiver, will be watching DeSean with a mixture of pride andrelief. "Good thing I stopped paying him," Byron says, "or I'd bebroke by now."
COACH: Jeff Tedford
2006 RECORD: 10-3 (7-2¬†in¬†Pac-10)
FINAL AP RANK: 14
RETURNING STARTERS: Offense 9, Defense 5
QB Nate Longshore (Jr.)
Threw for 3,021 yards and 24 touchdowns in '06
C Alex Mack (Jr.)
Rated as one of the top centers in the nation
LB Zack Follett (Jr.)
Four forced fumbles and 5 1‚ÅÑ2 sacks last season
Sept. 1 TENNESSEE
8 at Colorado State
15 LOUISIANA TECH
29 at Oregon
Oct. 13 OREGON STATE
20 at UCLA
27 at Arizona State
Nov. 3 WASHINGTON STATE
17 at Washington
Dec. 1 at Stanford
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"The things that set him apart," says Tedford,"are his instincts and vision."
Robert B. Stanton/WireImage.com
Jackson had seven TDs of 40-plus yards in '06.
Shelly Castellano/Icon SMI (mascot)
After catching 46 passes and scoring five touchdowns as a junior, Hawkins isanother primary target for Longshore that defenses have to be concernedabout