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August 23, 2012
Treggs set on making own path
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It could be any empty high school field anywhere in the country. It could be any father, throwing the ball around with his son. Sure, Dad has a pretty good arm - he's hucking the pigskin 30, 40 yards down field. It could be any five- or six-year old chasing those bombs.
But its' not.
The father smiles as he heaves the ball skyward. No way the boy will catch this one. He's only just learned how to write his own name, after all.
The scene blurs and fades. Pan downfield. A streak of blue and white tears across the turf, arms pumping, legs churning. Up go the hands. There's no sound as the ball dutifully falls into the son's palms -- just whistles and shouts, the occasional whoop or holler.
Beneath the blank, navy helmet, the son's eyes smolder. Beneath the mist hanging over the field, the father's eyes pinch at the corners, as an irresistible grin spreads across his face, as an involuntary titter escapes his lips.
"I wish he was No. 3," laughs Brian Treggs -- not only a California receiving great, but now, the father of his alma mater's newest weapon: freshman wide receiver Bryce Treggs.
"He asked me why I didn't wear No. 3, and obviously, [redshirt freshman] Maurice Harris has it, so that's why I didn't get it," Bryce smiles two weeks later. "He really wanted me to wear it, because it means a lot to him for me to go to the same school that he did, and walk the same line that he did. I respect Maurice Harris. That's his number. My number's No. 1 now, so I'm going to make that mine."
Of course, there are some other former Bears who might take issue with that -- Marvin Jones -- who is currently a wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals -- and the inimitable DeSean Jackson -- an All-Pro receiver and punt returner for the Philadelphia Eagles.
On the other side of the ball, another current player also sports the digit -- fourth-year junior Steve Williams.
"I think Bryce is pretty cool, man," Williams said after the first day of camp. "He's pretty good. He reminds me of Marv, a little bit, just in his mannerisms."
With the mannerisms and carriage of Jones and the closest thing to Jackson's speed that the program has seen since the little dynamo himself left Berkeley -- even though he's not wearing his father's No. 3 -- there's a lot of Brian in Bryce, as well.
"I see a lot," laughs the suddenly-bashful Brian -- a hall-of-fame trash-talker if ever there were one. "I know he's considered cocky, talkative and so-on and so-forth, but as anyone who's been around Bryce, on the football field he is extremely vocal -- he is extremely confident in his ability to perform -- but outside of the lines, when he's off the field, he's a normal kid, and I think that's one of the things that people like about me. Yeah, on the field, I talked a lot of trash -- I was extremely confident in my ability to be successful -- and that's the same thing Bryce has. Probably more than I was -- I mean, extremely confident in his ability to dominate -- but, off the field, he's just a regular teenager."
A regular teenager who, on Sept. 1, will take Jones' place across from junior starter and All-America candidate Keenan Allen against Nevada, as the Bears re-open California Memorial Stadium.
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As Brian looks on at Bryce in his first practice of fall camp, all of the sudden, he's back in 1988. The 5-3 Bears are readying to take the field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum against No. 2 USC.
"My first start was against USC, in the Coliseum, and I was nervous," Brian says. "It actually wasn't one of my better games, but eventually, I ended up playing really well, once I got that first game under my belt and got the jitters out."
By the time he was done at Cal, Brian Treggs would amass 2,335 receiving yards on 167 catches with 15 touchdowns. He still ranks fourth on the program's all-time career receptions list, fourth all-time in receiving yards and seventh in receiving touchdowns.
Yes, that No. 1 jersey brings a lot with it, but it's the name on the back that weighs the heaviest. Bryce's most implacable opponent, his most demanding teacher, his most probing critic has always been Brian.
"I've been teaching him since he was five, because I knew that he was going to be a wide receiver," Brian says. "Whether he knew that or not is a little gray area in the background of me and Bryce's relationship, but I knew all along that I wanted him to be a wide receiver."
From the age of five on until the day Bryce arrived on campus, Brian has put him through his paces. He's challenged Bryce to not just be better, but to be perfect -- technically, physically and analytically -- perfect in every aspect of the game.
"It was very competitive," Bryce says of his household growing up. "Every time we'd go work out or something, he'd be like, 'I can do that,' and I'd be like, 'Alright, well, come out here and do it.'
"We started working out when I was about five or six. He always used to overthrow me. As I got older, we would compete to see if he could overthrow me. I'd run a fade route, and he wouldn't overthrow me anymore. That's when I knew I passed him in the competition -- when he couldn't overthrow me anymore."
Ping pong, weight lifting, running routes, finishing dinner -- every event in Bryce Treggs's life was a competition. Yes, Brian -- who famously said he'd move to Palo Alto if Cal lost the Big Game his senior year -- has mellowed and matured with age, but that doesn't mean the old lion was about to go easy on his young cub.
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"Most of our competition is on the football field. I'd run a route, and I'd be like, 'No, this works,' or, 'No, that works,' and he'll say, 'No, I ran that route one time,'" says Bryce. "There was actually one time when he showed me one of his old highlights, because he was like, 'You can get out of your breaks in two steps,' and I said, 'That's impossible, to run a full-speed route and then get out of your breaks in two steps.' Then, he puts up his film against Wyoming, and they had this All-American corner, and he ran a post-corner route, and he got out of his break in two steps. He said, 'Yes, you can do it in two steps.' That was good to see."
Playing Pop Warner football, Bryce played on the same team with 2013 Washington quarterback commit Troy Williams. He played mostly running back, occasionally splitting out wide. One day, when he was about 12 -- after Brian was finally unable to overthrow him on those 40-yard routes -- he approached his father, much in the same way as fellow freshman legacy Hardy Nickerson, Jr., did.
"He came to me and said, 'Dad, I don't want to play running back anymore. Can I just play wide receiver? No matter how many balls I catch, I catch. I just want to get better at wide receiver,'" Brian recalls. "From that point on, he played wide receiver the whole time.
"I knew that this was pretty much his destiny, to become a wide receiver. He just worked at it. He's put in a lot of work, and I used to always tell him that, 'I don't coach you for Pop Warner football. I don't coach you for high school football. I coach you for college football.' I always challenged him to do more, to work on additional skills, to get better, because, once again, I'm not coaching him for high school football."
The expectations were high. The pressure was higher. And Bryce thrived because of it.
"The training regimen just went up at least 10 levels -- at least," says Bryce. "We started working out not every other day like we used to in Pop Warmer. We worked out every day. Maybe we'd take Sunday off or something like that, but even on that day, we'd go to 24-Hour Fitness and lift weights. We trained so that we could earn scholarships."
And earn them, he did. As a freshman, Arizona State came calling. By the time he'd finished his sophomore season, Bryce was already one of the top wide outs in his class. He began to form a close friendship with a young, strong-armed quarterback out of Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Valley by the name of Zach Kline. On June 22, 2010, the bullet and the gun met up on Witter Rugby Field during the Cal football team's elite one-day showcase camp. They clicked.
At the time, Bryce was a wispy waif at 6-feet and a generous 160 pounds. Big head, big hands, long arms, toothpick legs, a short torso -- but there they were, as plain as day: the eyes. Intense. Focused. Dissecting. Exacting.
"It was really important to my dad, because he knows that, in order to be successful at the collegiate level, you can't rely on talent and ability -- you have to work on your technique, and you have to be technical when you're running your routes. He really emphasized having technical routes," says Bryce.
He didn't know it that day, but Bryce's performance -- and his chemistry with Kline -- would earn him a scholarship offer. And that wasn't the last one. By the time he was a senior, Bryce had collected 15 offers and was ranked the 12th-best receiver in his class.
"I must say, I did refrain from advising him to go to Cal, because one of the things I wanted him to do was walk in his own footsteps, and not live in the footsteps of his dad," says Brian. "It was my opinion that, no matter what he did at Cal, he's always going to be the son of Brian Treggs, instead of paving his own way and doing his own thing at another university."
That thought never bothered Bryce, much, aside for his decision to don the No. 1 jersey. He knew he would forge his own way. He knew that there was one thing his father never did: hold The Axe.
"He definitely reminds me of the fact, and my comment from my senior year, when I said that if we lost, I would move to Palo Alto," says Brian. "He reminds me of that constantly. He's assured me that he'll make sure he'll get The Axe so that I won't have to move to Palo Alto anytime soon.
"It's definitely the one missing piece. My career at Cal was unbelievable, from coming there where we were a middle-of-the-Pac-10 to a bottom-of-the-Pac-10 type team, to get to the point where my senior and junior years, we were in the upper echelon of the Pac-10, and obviously my final season in 1991, where we went to the Citrus Bowl, was great. But, obviously, the one downer that year is that we failed to beat Stanford that year and get The Axe."
On Oct. 20, Bryce will get his first crack at Stanford, and you can bet Brian will be there, gleefully absorbing every boastful barb from his offspring if the game turns in the Bears' favor.
"Stanford was actually one of the schools that I was considering, way back when," says Bryce. "But, when we line up, in between those lines, I'm definitely going to try to get that Axe, because that's something that my dad never did. If I did that, then people will sort of stop saying I'm in his footsteps. I'll be past him in that sense of winning a Big Game. But, I won't move to Palo Alto if we lose. I won't say that."
As fall camp wore on, and after Brian returned home to Bellflower, Calif., Bryce began to struggle. His first day was scintillating, but as the days and practices melted away, he faltered. He stumbled. He got frustrated. He began to question himself. He didn't have his father. He didn't have his coach -- the man who'd molded him over the course of a lifetime.
"When he struggled those first few days -- like, the first day of camp, I think he did really well; the second day, I thought he did horribly, because I was there; then, the third and fourth days, I heard that he just didn't do well -- I just got on the phone with him, and we just talked about the things we've worked on, and all the work we've put in, and him just relaxing and just trusting his training, trusting his ability, trusting all the things that got him there," says Brian.
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Ever since those days of playing catch on the empty field, when Bryce was just five, Brian had been there. When Bryce wanted to become a full-time receiver -- to do what got his father into the NFL -- Brian was there, always pressing, always pushing Bryce to be better. But, he never intended to coach Bryce in high school. He wanted to prepare him for the days ahead.
"The plan was to do it when he was in high school," says Brian. "I wasn't going to coach him in high school, because I knew that there was going to come a time where I wasn't going to coach him, so I wanted it to happen in high school. I didn't want it to happen in college, but the way things worked out, I happened to coach him in high school.
"I think the coaches saw him I think after two days of freshman practice and said, 'Our varsity receivers need to know what he knows,' and asked me to help out, so, I ended up helping out."
What Bryce knew was the one thing Brian had pounded into him for years: Be perfect.
"I thought -- at that time -- he could do nothing, and he could be successful in high school football, just because of the level of talent and the fact that there's such a wide range between the players that are really good and the players that aren't really good," Brian says. "It's just a huge talent gap in high school football, where, when you get to college football, that talent gap decreases significantly. You've got guys that can play, and you can't start getting prepared in June for your opening game in September. It takes years of preparation to be able to be prepared to walk on that stage, come September as a true freshman, and being able to perform."
The grueling two-hour summer workouts Brian had put Bryce through -- so long a staple of the Treggs Program -- weren't just for show, and they didn't come about just this past summer.
"We've been doing those drills for a while -- I'd say my sophomore year is when we put up the first one (on YouTube), but we've been doing those drills for a while now," says Bryce. "I would just go to different camps, and he would see different drills at those camps, so we just sort of took drills from those different camps."
Two to three times per week, for two hours, the pair toiled. So far removed from the easy long-toss days when Bryce was a toddler, these workouts were serious.
"You've got to understand: He's been doing workouts like that since he was five-, six-years old, so that's not something that he just started doing overnight," says Brian. "A lot of people call me up on his videos and say, 'Hey, is that going to help my son?' You've got to understand: Bryce looks really good in his videos because he's been doing those drills for a long, long time. I never worried about his footwork, his ability to execute, his ability to play the position."
After those early missteps in fall camp, Bryce came alive. After one week, he'd already started running with the second team. He made catch after catch, ran crisp route after crisp route. Even when he missed an overthrow, he castigated himself. Doing his job perfectly meant that he had to make plays, even on errant passes.
"Everyone said, 'Hey, they're going to have to send you to council him,' because I've always coached him, since he was five," laughs Brian. "They said I'm going to have withdrawal because I'm not going to be there to coach him anymore. They made jokes like that, but I think it was both of us. It was a situation where I think it was an adjustment for him. It was an adjustment to learn something new, because everything he's learned from playing wide receiver, has all come from me. Now, he's getting someone else, who maybe telling him to do something a little different than what I've coached him to do, and I think it was an adjustment for him, to not have me there as a coach. But, I think it was a great adjustment for him, because it's something he has to go through."
That someone else, of course, is first-year wide receivers coach Wes Chandler. While Brian had a cup of coffee in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks -- playing in two games without recording a catch -- Chandler had considerably more success, to say the least.
"He's been there," laughs Brian, referring to Chandler's 11 years in the NFL, during which he earned four Pro Bowl trips, was named a first-team All-Pro and a second-team All-Pro and was elected to the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.
Maybe, Brian chuckles, Chandler knows what he's talking about a bit more than Dear Old Dad.
"He has a lot of respect for coach Chandler," Brian says. "I'll tell you, too, that's a great group of guys. He talks about how when he first got there, how Maurice Harris helped him so much, as far as learning the plays, where to line up and really teaching him, and so did Keenan."
Aside from Chandler, some of Bryce's most attentive teachers have been his fellow receivers, particularly Allen.
"He's helped us a lot," says Bryce. "At Bowles, he was actually me and Chris [Harper]'s roommate, so at like 11 at night, we'd be working on releases in the dorms, just teaching me different ways to be successful at this level. We had a little living room, so he used to show me little things, and he's also helping us with the playbook and stuff like that."
Images of broken lamps, shattered tables and flat screens that look more like window frames come to mind for some reason.
"Chris Harper, Bryce and Darius Powe, I mean, I think the reason why they're ready to play is because of Maurice and Keenan and Jackson Bouza and Ross Bostock all taking an interest in those guys, as a group, and wanting to get those guys better," says Brian. "I think a lot of credit goes to those guys, too, to not be selfish and want to work with the young guys coming in to get them to where they need to be."
And just like that, just over two weeks after first stepping onto the practice field, Bryce Treggs was named a starting wide receiver by head coach Jeff Tedford.
There was no pomp, no trumpets blaring -- it was just the name on a sheet of paper, bolded. Unlike his Old Man, he'll be on the field from the first snap of his first season. Somewhere, either via text or on the phone -- or maybe even just in Bryce's head -- is a scoreboard: 1-0, me.
"Bryce is different," says Brian. "I think, yes, he's going to be nervous. Anybody who steps on that football field -- if you don't have a little bit of nerves or jitters, you're not ready to play."
The first time that Bryce stepped onto the Memorial Stadium turf this spring for a helmets-only practice, he wore a blank expression. He just looked around. No sense of awe in his eyes, no twinkle or twitch betraying the acknowledgement of a legacy, or an unwritten future. He just looked -- like he'd been there before. What, exactly, was running through his mind?
"Just everything, just knowing that my dad played in this stadium and that he was so successful, and now, I have the opportunity to do the same thing," says Bryce. "I have that opportunity. We're a very fortunate team right now. We have a new stadium, we have a new facility, new weight room, new training room, new everything. We have to use that. Coach Tedford says that stuff doesn't matter, unless we make it count between the lines. If we don't play well on the field, none of that stuff matters. That was my reaction: I was like, 'Yeah, it's all good -- we're blessed to have it -- but we have to make it count."
"He was always one of those kids where I could put pressure on him, tell him things like, 'Bryce, you've got to put this team on your back,' and he would always respond to those types of challenges and those types of obstacles," says Brian. "I think he'll be just fine."
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