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20 Cal
Phil Taylor
August 20, 2007
The Bears are counting on their money player to deliver
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August 20, 2007

20 Cal

The Bears are counting on their money player to deliver

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ORDINARILY, THE NEWS that Cal wide receiver DeSean Jackson had accepted money for his on-field performance would have NCAA investigators winging their way toward Berkeley. But fortunately for Jackson and the Bears, there's no prohibition against playing for pay when it's a family affair.

The first time cash changed hands was when DeSean was four years old and playing catch with his big brother Byron. When Byron noticed that little DeSean was having trouble holding on to his Nerf-ball tosses, he added a financial incentive, offering DeSean five dollars if he could hang on to the next throw. DeSean made the catch, and for the next three years, through DeSean's flag football career, it seemed that every time Byron put a five-spot on the table, his little brother's hands were made of glue.

Perhaps as soon as next year, Jackson will make far more than five dollars to catch footballs because he just might be the top receiver in the country and could jump to the NFL. But for at least one more season Jackson, a junior, will be Cal's money receiver, figuratively speaking. Last fall he caught 59�passes for 1,060 yards and nine touchdowns in a breakout season, but the feeling--or fear--around the Pac-10 is that Jackson could easily surpass those numbers this year.

In 2006 he was adjusting to new quarterback Nate Longshore, who had missed the previous season with a broken left leg. After a year together Jackson and Longshore are completely familiar with each other, which should make them even more dangerous. The presence of seniors Lavelle Hawkins and Robert Jordan, an additional pair of productive receivers, will also help keep defenses from concentrating too heavily on Jackson. And with the departure of star tailback Marshawn Lynch (drafted 12th overall by the Buffalo Bills), Cal figures to throw the ball more often this season. "All the pieces are in place for us to have a big-time passing game," Jackson says. "There should be a lot of balls for everybody. I'm hoping I can add in a few big plays."

Cal is counting on more than a few, especially since Jackson, who has been timed at 4.3 seconds in the 40, can be just as dangerous when the ball is kicked to him. Of his seven touchdowns of 40�yards or longer last year, four were punt returns, of 95, 80, 72 and 65 yards. "The things that set him apart are his instincts and his vision," says Bears coach Jeff Tedford. "We just try to put him in as many different positions to use his gifts as we can."

Byron, a former San Jose State receiver, will be watching DeSean with a mixture of pride and relief. "Good thing I stopped paying him," Byron says, "or I'd be broke by now."

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