Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Contra Costa Times: Lynch leaves Cal to pursue 'dream'

Bears' second all-time rusher will forgo his senior year to enter the NFL draft

By Jay Heater

BERKELEY - The Marshawn Lynch era at Cal has come to an end. The junior tailback out of Oakland Tech High School announced Tuesday that he won't be back for his senior season. Instead, he will enter the NFL draft. "The opportunity to play in the NFL is something that I have always dreamed of," Lynch said in a statement released by Cal. "Right now, it is just hitting me that my dreams are going to have the chance to come true. I would like to thank my family and friends for staying true to me and also Coach (Jeff) Tedford, who has played a major role in this. "I will always consider myself a Golden Bear." Although Lynch declined interviews Tuesday, he will talk to the media today during a 1:30 p.m. news conference in the Hall of Fame Room at Memorial Stadium. The 2006 Pac-10 offensive player of the year, Lynch finished his career at the Holiday Bowl last Thursday by sharing the most valuable offensive player award with Bears quarterback Nate Longshore. He rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the 45-10 win over Texas A&M and finished the season with 1,356 yards rushing. He finished as the second all-time leading rusher at Cal, with 3,230 yards on 490 attempts. He also caught 68 balls for 600 yards and scored 35 touchdowns for Cal, which was 28-9 during his three seasons. He joined Russell White (who rushed for more than 1,000 yards in 1990, '91 and '92) as the only Cal players to rush for more 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. A PrepStar and SuperPrep All American at Oakland Tech, Lynch was Cal's premier recruit in 2004. "I remember that he was a special athlete," Tedford said. "To see him stop, start, accelerate was something. He was pretty much one of the best I've ever seen. "And he never did anything at Cal to discredit that. He has been a great player for us. He has a very bright future."

Lynch met with Tedford on Tuesday to discuss his future, and Tedford said he couldn't offer any argument as to why Lynch should return for his senior year. "I support that he is going out," Tedford said. "He has done a great job for us. He is considered to be one of the top, if not the top, back coming out. He is healthy and physically ready to go. I told him that I support him 100 percent." After doing some checking with NFL insiders, Tedford said he is convinced that "Marshawn will go high in the draft." If Lynch does go high in the draft, he will be worth millions. Tedford said it wouldn't make sense for him to risk that monetary reward by returning next season. "As a running back, you never know," Tedford said. "There are a lot of hits you take." Tedford was asked what he will remember about Lynch. "The excitement he brought to every game," he said. "Anytime he touched the ball, you had to hold your breath. It was phenomenal to see his runs." With Lynch leaving, senior-to-be Justin Forsett will inherit the starting tailback role. Forsett had 624 yards rushing this season. "We will be good there," Tedford said of next season's situation at tailback. "Justin will fill that role quite well, and we have quality backs in James Montgomery and Tracy Slocum (both redshirt freshmen)." Although Forsett is 5-foot-8 and 190 pounds, Tedford said he will serve well as an every-down back. "He's extremely tough. And it's going to be the same way it was this year; we will need somebody to spell him as well."


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