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Postcard from camp: Cal

Star DeSean Jackson is used to being in the spotlight

Posted: Monday August 20, 2007 2:59PM; Updated: Tuesday August 21, 2007 6:36PM
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DeSean Jackson
Cal's DeSean Jackson led the nation with four punt returns for touchdowns last season.
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BERKELEY, Calif. -- I've been promised some alone time with DeSean Jackson, but I feel like I'm being filmed for a movie. There's a cameraman standing right behind us while we chat on the field and another man looming in the background listening in on the conversation before taking controls of the camera from another angle.

"They've been filming me forever," says Jackson, pointing at his brother Byron and family friend Travis Clark. "I've had the camera on me for as long as I can remember."

This isn't just brotherly love at play. Byron, who was a receiver at San Jose State and played two seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs, is a professional film editor and works at a post production company in Los Angeles.

"I played football and it went so fast," says Byron, who has been filming DeSean since he was four years old and catching Nerf balls in the backyard. "The next thing you know it was over and I had no images of my experiences. So I just started documenting his at an early age."

Byron, 39, estimates that he has more than 600 hours of footage from DeSean's career, from his first catch in his parents' backyard 17 years ago to his one-handed touchdown grab during practice 17 minutes ago.

"Hopefully we can make this is into a documentary," says Byron, who majored in radio, television and film at San Jose State. "We're in the process of logging and cataloguing everything now. I'm hoping we can get with the right partners and distributors who will let us finish this and show everybody someday."

When that day comes, Byron says people will see the birth and maturation of one of college football's most exciting receivers. "I have him when he was in the eighth grade stepping onto a football practice field for the first time at USC and making the best catch he's made in his life so far," says Byron. "He was going up the field and [Travis Clark] threw DeSean a hard pass and he stopped reversed his body and caught it with one hand. It was the sickest catch I have ever seen."

Clark, 39, who played at Utah State, has been helping Byron film and mentor DeSean since 1995. As he puts his camera down on the field for a moment -- one of the few times Jackson isn't being filmed -- he recalls the first time he played catch with him.

"He would tell me to throw it long and I would try to out-throw him, but he would always catch it, and this is when he was seven," says Clark. "Then I tried drilling the ball at him from 10 yards out and he would just catch it. You couldn't hear anything. It was like a vacuum."

The camera that has constantly been following Jackson since he could catch a football has prepared him for the onslaught of attention that he is about to receive on and off the field. As the most lethal receiver and punt returner in college football, Jackson has already received early Heisman Trophy hype with a school commissioned Web site and pamphlet declaring Jackson, who wears No. 1, as "The 1 To Watch."

"I am the one to watch," says Jackson with a smile when he sees the pamphlet. "I've been ready for this moment my whole life. The camera's always been on me. The spotlight's always been on me. I'm used to it by now. I'm ready."

At this point all Jackson is waiting for is his close-up.

Three observations

1. Nate Longshore and Jeff Tedford are speaking a different language, and that's a good thing. OK, so maybe they haven't picked up a new dialect, but Tedford is about as comfortable with Longshore as any quarterback he's ever coached at Cal; enough to actually let him draw up his own plays from time to time.

"He's like another coach on the field," said Tedford. "This is the first time we've had a [quarterback] come back who's started the previous season. We're starting to speak a different language. You're able to just look at him and he says, 'Yeah, I saw that.' He's to the point now where's he's drawing plays before the meetings. He's got a lot of good ideas."

The difference between Longshore at this year's camp and last year's, where he was competing with Joe Ayoob for the starting job, is as noticeable as both hairstyles. Last year's blonde buzz cut has been replaced by long black locks. (His fiancÚ, Rachel, had dyed his hair blue, but Tedford informed him that it wouldn't fly for the team picture.)

"I'm so much more comfortable," said Longshore, who was named the team's starting quarterback just a week before last season's opener and enters this year ranked fifth in the nation in career passing efficiency. "Everyone is comfortable with me. We've had game experience together and spent countless hours together understating the timing. We're so far ahead of where we were last year."

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