50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #17 - STEVE BARTKOWSKI#17 - STEVE BARTKOWSKI - QUARTERBACK (1972 - 1974)
There's no harder player to rate than #17 on our 50 Greatest countdown. Steve Bartkowski is, of course, the only Golden Bear to be picked #1 in the NFL draft. No quarterback in the school's history possessed the arm strength of #10, who was reported by assistant coach Paul Hackett to have thrown a football 100 yards in the air at practices. Few if any players matched his overall athletic ability; Bartkowski was also a magnificent baseball player who made All-America as a 1st baseman in 1973.
At the same time, Bartkowski had but one magnificent season in Berkeley - in his first two years he split time with Vince Ferragamo and was frankly a disappointment when he got the starting job. To be fair, the teams around him stunk on ice - the 1973 version of the Golden Bears might be the worst 4-7 team in CFB history, having surrendered 60+ points to UCLA and Alabama.
But in his senior year of 1974, Bartkowski put it all together once he got to work with Hackett, a punchline of a head coach who was nevertheless a gifted tutor of quarterbacks. He convinced Bartkowski to trade velocity for accuracy, and the results were spectacular. Despite playing through the pain of a separated shoulder, Bart led the nation with 2,580 yards passing and earned consensus All-America honors for the 7-3-1 Bears. He topped the 300 yard mark four times (Washington, WSU, UCLA, Stanford); each of those efforts came after the shoulder injury, suffered in a 31-14 upset win over #14 Illinois in Champaign. Bartkowski finished 10th in voting for the Heisman that year, and would almost surely have ranked higher had he received even a modest amount of pre-season hype.
The NFL Draft was not yet a 24/7 TV event in 1975, so it came as something of a surprise to Bartkowski that the Atlanta Falcons expressed early interest in making him the #1 overall pick. Setting a trend, Bartkowski decided he needed representation prior to the draft to guide the negotiations with Atlanta and the fledgling WFL. Lacking many contacts in the legal world, he turned to his former dorm counselor at Dwight Derby, who had just graduated from Boalt Hall and had remained a friend. Bartkowski of course went on to rewrite the Falcons' record book, and his friend - Leigh Steinberg - carved out a nice career for himself as the first sports super-agent.