Within the 131-year historical past of the Massive Sport, some nice gamers have suited up for each the Stanford Cardinal and the California Golden Bears. A lot of them continued into the NFL, with some turning into legendary figures within the sport.
In preparation for the 126th assembly between these two storied applications, right here’s a (comparatively unbiased) rating of the 15 greatest gamers to have taken the sector on this historic rivalry. (Observe that the gamers have been ranked based mostly on their accomplishments in any respect ranges of the game.)
Honorable Mentions: Gene Washington, John Brodie, Jim Plunkett, Mitchell Schwartz, Nnamdi Asomugha
15. Hardy Nickerson (Cal 1983-1986)
Nickerson was a linebacker drafted within the fifth spherical to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1987. In his 16-year NFL profession that spanned 4 completely different groups, Nickerson was a five-time Professional Bowler and four-time All-Professional (two-time First Group). Moreover, his 1,586 mixed tackles is eighth in NFL historical past, going together with 21 profession sacks and 19 profession interceptions. Nickerson was named to the Nineteen Nineties All-Decade Second Group and is at present a nominee for the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame’s Class of 2024.
At Cal, Nickerson was voted the staff’s MVP for 3 consecutive years from 1983-1985. With 501 profession tackles, Nickerson was named within the First-Group All-Pac-10 in his senior yr.
Within the Massive Sport, Nickerson was 2-2.
14. Alex Mack (Cal 2004-2008)
A seven-time Professional Bowler and three-time second-team All-Professional, Alex Mack was a dominant power at heart for the Cleveland Browns, Atlanta Falcons and the San Francisco 49ers throughout his 13-year NFL profession. In 2016, Mack led a Falcons offensive line that reached the Tremendous Bowl, and would finally have a streak of 90 consecutive common season begins.
At Cal, Mack was a three-time first-team All-Pac-10 honoree, whereas being simply the third participant to obtain the Morris Trophy twice (an award for the perfect Pac-10 offensive lineman as voted by the convention’s defensive linemen).
Within the Massive Sport, Mack’s Cal groups have been 3-1, with Mack recording a season-high six pancake blocks in opposition to the Cardinal in his senior season.
13. David DeCastro (Stanford 2008-2011)
DeCastro was a large (6’5″, 315 kilos) guard who had a nine-year profession for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In these 9 seasons, the primary spherical draft choose from 2012 had six Professional Bowls and three All-Professional honors (two-time First Group). DeCastro anchored a robust Steelers offensive line that led them to the AFC Championship Sport in 2016.
Whereas a Cardinal, DeCastro was twice named First-Group All-Pac-12 and was a unanimous All-American in his senior season.
His Stanford groups have been 2-2 within the Massive Sport.
12. Christian McCaffrey (Stanford 2014-2016)
One in every of simply three energetic gamers on the listing, it’s anticipated that McCaffrey will finish his profession far larger on the listing than this present placement. Nevertheless, based mostly purely on present accomplishments, the previous Cardinal working again takes the twelfth spot. Being the eighth choose from the 2017 NFL draft, McCaffrey is a two-time Professional Bowler and three-time All-Professional (two-time First Group).
Taking part in his first 5 seasons with the Carolina Panthers and at present a member of the San Francisco 49ers, McCaffery has racked up 5,378 dashing yards and 47 dashing touchdowns to go together with 4,048 receiving yards and 26 receiving touchdowns. He additionally holds the NFL file for essentially the most consecutive video games with a landing, at 17 video games.
McCaffrey was electrical for Stanford as properly. In three seasons, he totaled 5,128 whole yards and 31 whole touchdowns, incomes him two First-Group All-Pac-12 honors in addition to being named a consensus All-American, Pac-12 Offensive Participant of the Yr, AP School Soccer Participant of the Yr and a finalist for the Heisman Trophy throughout his sophomore yr.
Within the Massive Sport, McCaffrey’s Stanford groups went 3-0, with McCaffrey being an enormous purpose why. In 2015, McCaffrey had 389 all-purpose yards and a couple of touchdowns, main the Cardinal to a 35-22 victory. In 2016, McCaffrey backed-up his earlier Massive Sport efficiency with one other dominant show, gaining 317 all-purpose yards and scoring three dashing touchdowns in opposition to the Bears.
11. James Lofton (Stanford 1975-1977)
Lofton was an eight-time Professional Bowler and four-time All-Professional in his 16-year NFL profession. The huge receiver was the primary participant in NFL historical past to succeed in 14,000 yards, and he performed in three Tremendous Bowls. After a profession spanning 5 completely different groups, for which Lofton had 764 receptions, 14,004 yards and 75 touchdowns, the previous sixth-overall choose within the 1978 NFL Draft was inducted into the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame in 2003.
As a senior at Stanford, Lofton had 53 receptions for 931 yards and 12 touchdowns, incomes him second-team All-American honors. Extra impressively, he was additionally a dual-sport athlete, profitable the 1978 NCAA Observe and Subject Championship within the lengthy bounce and being a three-time All-American within the occasion.
Within the Massive Sport, Lofton’s Cardinal groups have been 2-1.
10. Les Richter (Cal 1949-1951)
Arguably essentially the most versatile participant on this listing, eight-time Professional Bowler and seven-time All-Professional Les Richter was a dominant power on offense, protection and particular groups. After serving within the Korean Battle for 2 years after faculty, Richter performed heart, guard, linebacker and placekicker for the Los Angeles Rams for everything of his nine-year profession. The previous quantity two choose within the 1952 NFL Draft was inducted into the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame in 2011.
At Cal, Richter confirmed that very same expertise in all phases of the sport, taking part in guard, center linebacker and placekicker for the California Golden Bears. He’s additionally the one participant from Cal to be acknowledged as a consensus First-Group All-American twice, incomes these honors in 1950 and 1951. Richter graduated because the valedictorian of his class in 1952.
Within the Massive Sport, Richter led his groups to a 2-0-1 file in opposition to Stanford.
9. Andrew Luck (Stanford 2008-2011)
Luck could be one of many greatest “what ifs” in NFL historical past. If he hadn’t retired early as a consequence of damage, many imagine that he could be in dialog as one of many best soccer gamers of all time. In his seven years as a quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts, Luck was chosen to 4 Professional Bowls and received NFL comeback participant of the yr in 2018.
Nevertheless, what made followers most satisfied about his potential for greatness was his knack for breaking information. Being the primary general choose within the 2012 NFL Draft, Luck threw for 4,374 yards and 23 touchdowns as a rookie, breaking quite a few NFL information for passing yards by a rookie quarterback. All through his six energetic seasons, Luck would throw for a complete of 23,671 yards and 171 touchdowns, additionally breaking quite a few Colts franchise information that had been set by Peyton Manning. If he had completed out his profession, he would seemingly be close to the highest of this listing, if not on the high. However his untimely retirement places him at ninth, which continues to be forward of some all-time greats.
Luck was as a lot a legend for the Cardinal as he was for the Colts. In his three energetic seasons, he racked up 10,387 whole yards together with 89 whole touchdowns, incomes him two-time first-team All-Pac-12 and two-time first-team All-American honors.
Within the Massive Sport, Luck went 2-1. In 2009 he struggled, solely throwing for 157 and an interception in a 34-28 loss. Nevertheless, he bounced again in 2010, with 307 whole yards and a couple of passing touchdowns in a 48-14 rout of the Golden Bears. In his closing season, Luck threw for 257 yards, 2 touchdowns and an interception for a 31-28 victory.
8. Ernie Nevers (Stanford 1922-1925)
One other extremely versatile participant, Nevers was a fullback (and kicker, punter and sometimes quarterback) who dominated the Twenties. After a stint in skilled baseball, Nevers performed 5 years within the NFL for the Duluth Eskimos and Chicago Cardinals, incomes All-NFL honors in all 5 seasons. He additionally nonetheless holds the file for essentially the most factors scored in a sport with 40 factors in opposition to the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving Day in 1929. Being broadly thought of as top-of-the-line gamers within the first half of the twentieth century, Nevers was named to the Twenties All-Decade Group and was inducted into the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame in its inaugural class.
At Stanford, Nevers was a multi-sport athlete, competing for the Cardinal in soccer, basketball, baseball and observe. As part of the soccer staff, Nevers was a consensus All-American in 1925 and was 1-1-1 in Massive Video games. The loss got here in 1923, regardless of Nevers gaining extra yards than your complete Cal offense. In 1924, Nevers was injured for the rivalry match that resulted in a 20-20 draw. Nevertheless, in 1925, Nevers rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns to steer Stanford to a 27-14 victory.
7. Marshawn Lynch (Cal 2004-2006)
Nicknamed “Beast Mode,” Lynch was arguably essentially the most electrifying participant of the 2010s. In a 13-year NFL profession spanning three completely different franchises, the working again is most identified for his time on the Seattle Seahawks, the place he was a key a part of two Tremendous Bowl groups, profitable one. A five-time Professional Bowler and two-time All-Professional, Lynch collected 12,627 whole yards and 94 touchdowns in his profession.
Though Lynch has fewer particular person accolades than some listed earlier than him, when wholesome, Lynch was really an unstoppable power. This was most evident in his “Beast Quake” run, by which he broke 9 tackles en path to a 67-yard landing within the 2010-2011 NFL playoffs, which is taken into account one of many best runs in NFL historical past. A member of the NFL 2010’s All-Decade Group, Lynch will seemingly see his identify enshrined within the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame.
An Oakland native, Lynch stayed house at Cal, racking up 4,629 all-purpose yards and 37 touchdowns over three years (in addition to a legendary damage cart joyride). In his closing season, Lynch was chosen to the first-team All-Pac-10, a first-team All-American and the Pac-10 Offensive Participant of the Yr.
Within the Massive Sport, Lynch’s Cal groups have been undefeated in opposition to Stanford. In 2004 as a real freshman, Lynch rushed for 122 yards and a landing in opposition to the Cardinal, whereas additionally throwing a 20-yard landing cross. In 2005’s Massive Sport, Lynch rushed for an additional 123 yards and a landing. In his third and closing collegiate season, Lynch rushed for 67 yards and caught a 25-yard cross for his third consecutive Massive Sport win.
6. Cameron Jordan (Cal 2007-2010)
Except you’re a New Orleans Saints fan, you could be scratching your head at how Jordan made it so excessive on the listing. Nevertheless, the eight-time Professional Bowler and three-time All-Professional defensive finish has been sneakily crafting a Corridor of Fame profession wrecking quarterbacks within the NFC South. Jordan has spent everything of his 13-year (and counting) profession in New Orleans, amassing 117.5 sacks, 672 tackles and 11 pressured fumbles on the time of writing. Chosen to the NFL 2010’s All-Decade Group, Jordan can also be the Saints’ all-time franchise sack chief, and well-respected throughout the league as top-of-the-line defensive ends of his technology.
At Cal, Jordan was a first-team All-Pac-10 defensive lineman, recording 16.5 sacks and 175 tackles throughout 4 seasons.
Within the Massive Sport, Jordan’s Cal groups went 2-2, with Jordan having eight tackles and a fumble restoration within the 4 matchups.
5. John Lynch (Stanford 1989-1992)
Within the Bay Space, Lynch is at present referred to as the overall supervisor of the San Francisco 49ers, constructing some of the gifted rosters within the NFL. Nevertheless, Lynch additionally had a 15-year NFL profession, primarily taking part in for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The hard-hitting security dominated the center of the sector, anchoring a feared Buccaneers protection together with Corridor of Famers Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks.
Incomes 9 Professional Bowl and 4 All-Professional alternatives, Lynch and his defensive unit led the Buccaneers to a Tremendous Bowl victory in 2002 whereas inventing the famed Tampa 2 protection. After a profession with 26 interceptions, 16 pressured fumbles, 13 sacks and 1,059 tackles, Lynch was immortalized within the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame in its 2021 class.
At Stanford, Lynch was one other dual-sport athlete, taking part in soccer and baseball for the Cardinal. Starting his profession as a backup quarterback, Lynch transitioned to security earlier than his junior season. By his senior yr, he was main the Cardinal protection, recording 76 tackles, 4 interceptions and a landing return, leading to a second-team All-American choice.
Within the Massive Sport, Lynch’s Cardinal went undefeated in opposition to Cal in 4 matchups.
4. Richard Sherman (Stanford 2006-2010)
For the informal soccer fan, Sherman is probably going most identified for his trash discuss. With quite a few sideline moments and a viral tirade in opposition to Michael Crabtree after the 2013 NFC Championship sport, Sherman developed a fame as one of many greatest talkers within the NFL. Nevertheless, his play at all times backed up his discuss.
Arguably one of many best cornerbacks of all time, Sherman was a cornerstone of the Seattle Seahawks protection and the face of the legendary “Legion of Growth.” All through his profession, Sherman tallied 37 interceptions, returning three for touchdowns, together with 116 passes defended and 495 tackles. Incomes 5 Professional Bowl and 5 All-Professional alternatives, Sherman helped lead the Seahawks to a Tremendous Bowl victory in 2014. Additionally a member of the NFL 2010’s All-Decade Group, Sherman is a lock for the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame.
Sherman truly entered Stanford as a large receiver, recording 1,340 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns to go together with two punt return touchdowns in his first three years. Switching to defensive again after his junior season, Sherman logged 113 whole tackles and 6 interceptions in his closing two seasons of eligibility, returning one for a landing.
In Sherman’s 5 years at Stanford, his groups went 2-3 within the Massive Sport, however Sherman solely performed in three. In his freshman yr, Sherman had 81 receiving yards and a landing as a large receiver in a 26-17 loss. By his fourth season, Sherman had transitioned to protection, racking up six tackles, an interception and three passes defended in one other loss to the Golden Bears. Sherman lastly beat Cal in his closing season, logging 5 tackles, an interception and a pressured fumble.
3. Tony Gonzalez (Cal 1994-1996)
The best tight finish of all time (for now), Gonzalez’s resume is stacked. In a 17-year profession with the Kansas Metropolis Chiefs and the Atlanta Falcons, Gonzalez was a 14-time Professional Bowler (second-most in NFL historical past) and 10-time All-Professional.
Let that sink in. He additionally holds the league file for receiving yards and receptions by a good finish, whereas rating third in receptions by any place. Gonzalez, and his 1,325 receptions for 15,127 yards and 111 touchdowns, revolutionized the tight finish place and its function in offenses, paving the way in which for modern-day gamers like Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce (identified by many as Taylor Swift’s boyfriend). Gonzalez was a variety for the NFL 2000s All-Decade Group, in addition to the NFL a hundredth Anniversary All-Time Group, and was inducted into the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame in 2019.
Like many others on this listing, Gonzalez was additionally a dual-sport athlete, taking part in each soccer and basketball for the Cal Golden Bears. On the soccer subject, Gonzalez recorded 1,302 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in his three years in faculty, incomes him first-team All-Pac-10 and consensus All-American honors in his closing yr.
Nevertheless, Gonzalez and his Cal groups have been 1-2 within the Massive Sport. The Bears received in 1994 in a good 24-23 outcome, however misplaced in each 1995 and 1996, regardless of Gonzalez scoring touchdowns in each.
2. John Elway (Stanford 1979-1982)
If you consider the Denver Broncos, you consider Elway. Simply top-of-the-line quarterbacks in soccer historical past, Elway spent everything of his 16-year taking part in profession on the Broncos, main them to 5 Tremendous Bowls and profitable two. He mixed unbelievable arm energy with elite athleticism, making him one of many faces of the game by means of the Eighties and ’90s.
The nine-time Professional Bowler and three-time All Professional was additionally named the NFL Most Invaluable Participant in 1987, NFL Man of the Yr in 1992 and Tremendous Bowl MVP in 1999. He was additionally identified for main the Broncos to quite a few comeback wins (most notably “The Drive” in 1987 AFC Championship Sport), totalling 35 comeback wins within the fourth quarter and additional time. Elway ended his profession with a whopping 51,464 passing yards and 300 landing passes to go together with 3,407 dashing yards and 33 dashing touchdowns, incomes him a spot on the NFL Nineteen Nineties All-Decade Group, the NFL a hundredth Anniversary All-Time Group and a spot within the Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame. So as to add onto Elway’s accolades from his taking part in profession, he additionally received a Tremendous Bowl with the Broncos as a normal supervisor.
Elway’s greatness was on show throughout his collegiate profession at Stanford as properly. Yet one more dual-sport athlete, Elway was distinctive at each soccer and baseball. On the gridiron, though his win file didn’t present it, Elways left his mark within the collegiate file books. His 77 landing passes are a Stanford file, and his 9,349 passing yards have been sufficient for second at school historical past. He received the Pac-10 Participant of the Yr twice in 1980 and 1982 whereas additionally being a unanimous All-American and ending second in Heisman trophy voting in 1982.
Nevertheless, Elway’s file within the Massive Sport isn’t his best. Throughout his tenure, Elway’s Cardinal have been 1-3 in opposition to Cal, with the 25-20 loss in 1982 being notably painful as a consequence of The Play, by which Cal scored a final minute game-winning kickoff return landing that included 5 laterals.
1. Aaron Rodgers (Cal 2003-2004)
Whilst a Stanford scholar, Rodgers’s spot on the high of this listing can’t be disputed. Extensively thought of essentially the most gifted quarterback of all time, Rodgers has constructed a profession that’s solely rivaled by the head of the game.
A ten-time Professional Bowler, five-time All-Professional, four-time NFL Most Invaluable Participant and Tremendous Bowl champion and MVP, the previous Inexperienced Bay Packers legend and present New York Jets quarterback is a masterclass in effectivity and precision. He holds the NFL information for single season passer ranking at 122.5, lowest interception proportion in a season at 0.3%, in addition to consecutive passes with out an interception at 402. With 59,055 profession passing yards and 475 passing touchdowns on high of three,466 dashing yards and 35 dashing touchdowns, Rodgers is a member of the NFL 2010s All-Decade Group and a assured first-ballot Corridor of Famer. To not point out, he’s at present set to make the (unofficial) quickest restoration from an Achilles tendon tear in NFL historical past at 39 years of age, simply including to an already legendary resume.
Rodgers transferred to Cal after beginning his faculty profession at Butte School. In his two seasons with the Golden Bears, Rodgers totalled 5,815 yards with 51 whole touchdowns whereas setting a number of faculty passing information.
Within the Massive Sport, Rodgers stepped up, main Cal to a 2-0 file in opposition to Stanford in 2003 and 2004. Rodgers’s first Massive Sport noticed him throw for 359 yards and three touchdowns whereas dashing for 55 extra yards, main Cal to a 28-16 victory. In 2004, Rodgers solely needed to throw for 120 yards and a single landing, as Cal’s dominant dashing assault (together with beforehand talked about Marshawn Lynch) carried them to a 41-6 rout of the Cardinal.
Regardless of a short while at Cal, Rodgers has cemented himself all through his skilled profession as the best participant to ever come out of both program.