Tuesday, November 14, 2006


OK, a personal story. I was there, on the field in '86 after Cal beat a Stanford team they had no business beating. I remember two things from that drunken escapade. First, while I'm a reasonably big guy I was terrified of Doug Riesenberg, who nearly flattened me in the chaos. Second, I remember Hardy Nickerson climbing the chair and conducting the Cal band with an expression of sheer joy on his face.

Nickerson was a big-time player on teams that didn't have many. He made 501 tackles in his four years, including a 167-tackle season in 1985 that is still the all-time single season mark at Berkeley. He also tallied 141 tackles as a sophomore in 1984 and 132 in his senior season. Somehow Nickerson was only voted to one All-Pac 10 team, in 1985. His value to his teams was better measured by the fact that he is one of only two Bears to be named Team MVP in three different seasons (a cookie to the reader who can name the other one).

Underrated throughout his college career, Nickerson was drafted in the 5th round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1987. In a career that spanned 17 years Nickerson was named to five Pro Bowls and recorded nearly 2,000 tackles for the Steelers, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville and Green Bay. He received the 1997 NFL Whizzer White award for his many off-field contributions, especially in the area of youth scholarship.


At 2:41 PM, Blogger Pete Morris said...

Since the '82 game was just before my time, that '86 Big Game remains my personal highlight. I'll never forget the photo in that Sunday's paper of a teary-eyed Joe Kapp being carried off the field. If ever a single day, and and a single image, illustrated Kapp's mantra, "The Bear does not quit, The Bear will not die," that was it.

As for the Hardware Man, he was nails (pardon the pun). Since that was the era of Ditka's professional Bears, I always thought of Nickerson as our own college Bears version of Mike Singletary. A great athlete with phenomenal heart and instinct--always around the ball. I actually became something of a Tampa Bay Bucs fan because of him, and he's now doing color commentary for them. For what it's worth, he's Cal's lone member of the NFL's "All-Decade Team" of the 1990s.

At 3:18 PM, Blogger Tightwad said...

I hear you - we would have liked to rank him higher for sentimental reasons, but there's lots of terrific Bears yet to come. Another memory of that BG is that Stanford pulled two stunts - they came out in red pants, which they hadn't done that year (maybe never) and they entered Memorial through their student section.

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