I wonder if Adimchinobe Echemandu knew what he was starting at Cal in 2003. Echemandu (sometimes known as Joe; a favor to sportswriters, no doubt) had a stellar season for the Golden Bears that year, finishing second in the Pac-10 in rushing yards (1,195) and rushing touchdowns (13).
Echemandu bounced around as a journeyman running back for four NFL seasons, a career that included time with the Raiders in 2006 and 2007. No one is considering him for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But Echemandu did play in the NFL, and though few may have suspected it at the time, he opened the floodgates for more Bears.
Check out these Cal running backs, listed with their final college seasons:
2003: Adimchinobe Echemandu
2004: J.J. Arrington
2006: Marshawn Lynch
2007: Justin Forsett
2009: Jahvid Best
2010: Shane Vereen
2012: C.J. Anderson
That’s seven NFL-quality halfbacks in a decade. (It does not include Byron Storer or Will Ta’ufo’au, who played in the NFL but didn’t carry the ball much at Cal.) All of them except Echemandu suited up for coach Jeff Tedford, who was known for developing quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers aside, it’s clear Tedford did a better job of recruiting halfbacks.
Anderson, now representing the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, is intimately familiar with this lineup, having grown up Vallejo.
“Of course,” Anderson told me yesterday. “It’s not too many home openers I missed at UC Berkeley, because it was just so close to my home. So I got to see Jahvid and Marshawn and a couple of ’em tear it up.”
Another cool oddity: Four of the seven have played in Super Bowls. Arrington played for the Cardinals in Super Bowl 43, Lynch (Seahawks) and Anderson (Broncos) were opponents in 48, Lynch (Seahawks) and Vereen (Patriots) traded yardage in 49 last year, and now Anderson is back in 50.
Anderson, who wasn’t humoring any reporters during his media sessions, acknowledged some pride in carrying on the tradition.
“Yeah, why not, man?” he said. “I mean, they got some good backs that came in and did some things, from J.J. to Echema to Justin to myself, Marshawn, Jahvid, Shane – who played well in Super Bowl last year. I mean, when you can put yourself in that class of running backs at UC Berkeley, it means a lot.”
Now Anderson will try to become the third consecutive Golden Bears halfback to win a Super Bowl ring.