Tailback Justin Forsett Ready to Come Into His Own After Three Years in the Shadows
BY Shawn Liu
SAN FRANCISCO—Before putting on pads and hitting the field for training camp, senior Justin Forsett, the Cal football team’s new starting running back, had another job to do—put on a suit and tie and represent his teammates at the Bay Area College Football Media Luncheon in San Francisco on August 1. “It’s cool. I have never done this before,” said Forsett, who had 626 rushing yards last year while backing up Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year Marshawn Lynch. “It’s a different role for me.” Although Forsett is on the cover of the team’s 2007 media guide, he said he doesn’t think of himself as the team’s star. “When people think about our team, I don’t think they will think about me first,” Forsett said. “I don’t think I am the face of the franchise. We have so many guys here, like DeSean.” Junior wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who has the benefit of a Heisman Trophy marketing campaign, has one-upped Forsett’s cover appearance with his own Web site: www.the1towatch.com.
But while there has been uncertainty regarding whether Jackson will return for his senior season, there is no question that 2007 will be Forsett’s last at Cal. And he wants to make it count. In preparation for his final season, the 5-foot-8 Forsett put on 10 pounds of muscle in the off-season without losing an ounce of speed. He is currently listed at 198 pounds.
“I wanted to gain a couple of pounds in order to make the power moves I wanted to make,” Forsett said. “I didn’t set a number but ended up with 10 pounds. I want to be more physical.” Bears coach Jeff Tedford said the idea of Forsett gaining weight did not come from the coaching staff.
“It’s all through his hard work and dedication,” Tedford said. “He is heavier and faster. I won’t say he will be more durable, because he has been durable. But it will certainly help him being an every-down back.” Forsett came one yard short of 1,000 yards rushing in 2005 despite starting only three games. His 6.4 yards per carry career average gave Tedford plenty of reasons to expect no drop-off from Lynch to Forsett. “It’s not so much about separating himself from Marshawn,” Tedford said. “Justin does a lot of things as well as Marshawn. And that’s a high compliment because Marshawn is a great player.” Forsett is also confident that the transition to the starting role will be a smooth one. “I still want to be productive,” he said. “The big thing for me now is consistency, because I will not be in and out of the lineup.”
With the death of Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Bill Walsh just two days before the luncheon, both Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh and San Jose State coach Dick Tomey honored Walsh during their addresses to the media, and although Forsett was only three years old when Walsh won his last Super Bowl with the San Francisco 49ers, he understands the impact of the Bay Area legend, especially to the running back position. “He is responsible for what football is today,” Forsett said. “We don’t know what it would be without him. It’s a sad loss of a football genius.” Riding a five-game winning streak against the Cardinal, with whom Walsh spent five years as head coach, Forsett and the Bears will meet Stanford in the regular season finale on Dec. 1 in the newly-remodeled Stanford Stadium for the first time. “I heard it’s nice,” Forsett said. “It’s always extra special playing against Stanford. It will be fun to play there.” Another game Forsett looks forward to is the season-opener at home against Tennessee on Sept. 1. Cal had only 64 rushing yards in the 35-18 loss to the Volunteers last year at Neyland Stadium. “It was a great experience for us playing there,” Forsett said. “There’s no place like it. It was our worst game of the season, but we bounced back and played well.” Forsett said he is excited about playing Tennessee in front of the home crowd at Memorial Stadium. “It is going to be huge,” Forsett said. “The crowd was great last year against Oregon. We want to see the same kind of spirit this year.” As for his new season’s resolution, Forsett is eyeing a game far beyond the clash with Tennessee. “My goal is to be in Louisiana as our starting running back at the national championship game,” he said.