50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #49 - CARL VAN HEUIT
#49 - Carl Van Heuit - Safety (1949-1950)
Standing only 5'8" and weighing 160 pounds, Carl Van Heuit was the most unlikely of All-Americans. And yet, when legendary coach Pappy Waldorf was asked to name the five greatest players during his storied career, he found room for Van Heuit alongside players like NFL Hall of Famer Otto Graham.
Van Heuit didn't even make the varsity squad as a sophomore, but as a JV (or 'Rambler') star he was awarded the Ken Cotton award as the most courageous player in the entire program. He earned a spot on the varsity squad for the 1949 Rose Bowl game against Northwestern. Van Heuit began the next year as Cal's starting safety, and led the team in interceptions with five, helping lead the Golden Bears to an undefeated regular season and encore performance in Pasadena. While Cal lost that game as well, 17-14 to Ohio State, Van Heuit was voted the team's Vard Stockton award as outstanding player in a bowl game.
In his senior campaign, Van Heuit again led the team in interceptions and earned first team All-American honors from Look Magazine and the Helms Foundation. His place in Golden Bear lore was cemented during that senior campaign when he ran down Washington's Hugh McElhenny from behind to preserve a 14-7 lead and ensure Cal of its third consecutive Rose Bowl appearance. While Waldorf's Bears lost yet again, to Michigan 14-6, Van Heuit played a tremendous game on defense and again received the Vard Stockton award. In addition to his heroics on defense, Van Heuit averaged 11 yards per punt return and never fumbled a punt during his two years of varsity play.
Van Heuit may have graduated, but he never left Cal. A Berkeley native, he served as an assistant coach for Cal's JV and freshman football teams as well as its rugby team. He also became one of Cal's most notable financial backers, and was voted Bear Backer of the Year in 1988. Carl died on January 6, 2002 after a long battle with Parkinson's Disease, but his name lives on the form of the Van Heuit baseball training center at Evans Diamond, and the Van Heuit Family scholarship fund, administered by the California Alumni Association.
A great Golden Bear in every sense of the phrase, Carl Van Heuit checks in at #49.