Isi Sofele grew up in Salt Lake City, not far from the University of Utah campus. He often attended Utah games and camps as a kid - hey, wearing his Pop Warner jersey meant free admission to the games - and became a full-fledged Utes fan. Now, to punctuate his first season playing college football, Sofele would like nothing more than to torment his onetime favorite team. Maybe weave his way downfield for a long kickoff return, or take off at typical breakneck speed and deliver a crunching hit on Cal's punt-coverage unit.
Make no mistake, you noticed Sofele (so-FELL-ay) if you watched the Bears at all this season. He wears No. 20 and races around the field like a runaway gnat, 5 feet and 7 inches of pent-up energy, quickness and tenacity, zooming this way and zipping that way. Sofele doesn't need much reason to get excited about playing football, but next week's Poinsettia Bowl against Utah offers special incentive. Many people back home will watch the game on television, loyal to their Utes but fully aware of Sofele.
Plus, two of his Cottonwood High teammates, linebacker Matt Martinez and offensive lineman Percy Taumoelau, are freshmen at Utah. So the texts and friendly Facebook trash talk already are flying between Berkeley and Salt Lake City. "I told them to watch out for special teams, because I'll be out there," Sofele said.