When Cal defensive back Chris Conte walks into the Rose Bowl on Saturday, he might be as comfortable with his surroundings as anyone on the host UCLA roster. "I was over there all of the time as a kid," said Conte, who went to Loyola High-Los Angeles and lived about 10 minutes away from the campus. "We went to nearly every basketball game, football games, baseball games, whatever. UCLA was pretty much where I spent my time growing up."
That's why it was such a surprise when Conte, a junior, switched his verbal commitment from UCLA to Cal two years ago. It's a choice he still talks about with a handful of the current members of the Bruins' roster. "That was the hardest decision I've ever had to make in my life, and it totally changed my life," Conte said. "I wouldn't be the same person if I would have stayed home and gone to UCLA. I've matured a lot more by leaving home, living on my own, not having my parents or friends and being able to establish myself. ... It would have pretty much been an extension of high school if I went to UCLA, but I'm getting a real-life, college experience."