50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #10 - J.J. ARRINGTON#10 - J.J. ARRINGTON - RUNNING BACK (2003-2004)
J.J. Arrington is the reason we don't pay that much attention to recruiting rankings. Cal and Oregon were the only programs to seriously court Arrington, a two star recruit from College of the Canyons junior college. To his credit, so-called expert Greg Biggins did expect Arrington to have an immediate impact, though he mentioned him after singing the praises of recruits like Devin Stearns, Garrett Tremblay and Sam DeSa. We think it's safe to say that no one - not even Mr. Tedford - expected the kid from North Carolina to someday compile the 10th greatest season by a running back in NCAA history.
But from the beginning, it was clear that Tedford had gotten a steal in J.J.. In his second game, Arrington torched Southern Miss for 114 yards on 16 carries. There was the issue of fumbles, though: Arrington lost three in his first six games, and found his way to Tedford's bench as Adimchinobe Echemandu strengthened his hold on the starting job. JT reinstated Arrington at home against Arizona, and he rewarded his coach with 92 yards, two touchdowns and no fumbles. His breakout game came three weeks later against Washington, when he gained 185 yards on only 14 carries in Cal's 54-7 rout.
Cal fans were understandably anxious to see what Arrington would do carrying the full workload in 2004. What he did was have the greatest season by any player in the history of Cal football. That's right. The greatest season ever.
In each of his 12 games, Arrington hit for at least 100 yards - the only back in America to make that claim. Against Air Force in the opener, he scored three times including an 89-yard run that set a Cal record. 3 more scores against NMSU, and then a couple of off games - 108 yards and a TD v Oregon State and 112 in the heartbreak loss to SC. Then J.J. got serious. UCLA was torched for 205 yards and two scores in the next outing, and then ASU, Oregon, Washington and Stanford all surrendered a touchdown and at least 120 yards to #30.
But J.J. Arrington, to us, defined himself in the rain and mud of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. You recall the scene - the Bears needed a blowout win to impress the human pollsters and vault past Texas into the Rose Bowl. It was not to be, but Arrington moved heaven and earth to make it so, rushing 31 times for 261 yards, the most by a Cal back since 1954.
He ended the year with absurd numbers: 289 carries for 2,018 yards and fifteen touchdowns. A consensus All-American, Arrington also won the Pop Warner Award, given to the top senior on the west coast. J.J. was overlooked in the Heisman voting, and also by the pros in the 2005 NFL draft, falling to the Arizona Cardinals with the 15th pick of the second round. He plays there today, as understudy to Edgerrin James and a kick returner for the Cardinals - a pretty good two-star guy.