Throughout his recruitment by California, slot receiver/safety Billy McCrary was told by inside receivers coach Mark Tommerdahl that somebody very close to the Cal family had first made the staff aware of his highlights.
Little did he know that, while out to dinner with head coach Sonny Dykes during his official visit, that he would not only find out who that was, but get to meet that man: Spike Dykes.
“He’s actually the one that really likes me,” said the Bears’ latest commit. “He’s the one that told Sonny about me, basically. He said that he had seen highlights from me on a local football channel, and he really liked everything. It was awesome. That was crazy. Coach Tommerdahl had said that there was someone that was really close to Cal that had been telling them all about me, and to find out who it was, and for it to be him, that was crazy. It was awesome to sit down and have dinner with someone like that.”
Spike Dykes, of course, is the father of Cal’s head coach, and is a coaching legend, in his own right, in the state of Texas. Spike was the head coach of Texas Tech from 1986 to 1999, and coached high school football from 1959 to 1971, before moving on to become an assistant for the Longhorns in McCrary’s home town of Austin. McCrary was struck on his official visit this past weekend, in fact, by how similar Berkeley and his hometown were.
“The people are a lot like Austin,” McCrary says. “It was nice to fit in. The players, my host (Jack Austin), we hung out in his apartment, and a couple of the receivers were there, also, and some other players, and I fit in perfectly fine there. I could talk to them, he was very up front and easy to talk to. Also, a big thing was how approachable and how easy it was to talk to Sonny Dykes. He’s just great.”
After Spike Dykes raved about McCrary to his son, it was time for the staff to do some research. They found that McCrary certainly fits the academic profile of a Cal student, with a 3.95 unweighted GPA, and a 4.3 weighted mark. They also found that he’s played mainly quarterback for Austin (Tex.) Rouse, completing 55 of 125 passes for 799 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions this season, with 163 carries for 866 yards and five touchdowns.
So, this past spring, Tommerdahl went out to see McCrary in action during practice, with the intent of seeing what he could do as a receiver. Right after that, though, McCrary committed to SMU. As soon as June Jones announced his resignation, Tommerdahl got back into contact.
“That was the big thing in spring ball, was that they hadn’t seen me catch the ball, really, so that’s what was holding them off from offering, and then, obviously, me committing to SMU,” says McCrary.
McCrary remained committed to the Mustangs until right before he went into Sonny Dykes’s office at the end of his official visit, when he called the SMU staff to tell them that he intended to flip. After he did, the staff gave McCrary a second tour of the facilities, this time, to show him off a bit.
“They were really excited,” says McCrary. “I got to go back through the whole entire facility, and they introduced me as a new Cal Bear. That was awesome.”
As McCrary applies for early admission (he’ll enroll in the fall), he’s going to make sure that he works on his hands out of the slot.
“I’m going to have to fill in that gap this offseason, before I have to go up there, just because I’ve had to play quarterback. Bottom line, they want me to get the ball in my hands,” says McCrary.
McCrary will have the option when he comes in as to whether to stay on the offensive side of the ball, or move to strong safety, an option he discussed with the staff during his visit, when he spent “equal time” with Tommerdahl and defensive backs coach Greg Burns.
“They showed me the depth chart of the receiver side, and the depth chart on the strong safety side,” says McCrary. “They said, ‘You’ll be able to come in and choose which ever one you want to go at, choose your opportunities, and see how you fit into the roster and into the lineup, as of right now.’ They said, ‘You’re fast, athletic, and you can fit in at both of them. We’ll give you the opportunity to play whichever one you want to play, first,’ but overall, it’s going to be their decision, and that’s fine with me. I just want to help them win games.”
One thing McCrary has in spades is speed. He’s clocked a 4.29 hand-timed 40 at the Texas State camp, and a 4.38 laser-timed run during the summer.
“Just my speed, size, and they were talking about my character, that’s what they liked,” McCrary says.
Before his visit, McCrary had an inkling that he’d wind up in blue and gold, and putting on the No. 4 jersey during his visit helped solidify that image in his mind.
“I was pretty sure,” McCrary says. “My conversation with coach Tommerdahl was, basically, he just wanted me to come out there and see how the campus was, and see if I liked it, see if it would be a good fit. I knew, football-wise, and academics-wise, that I would love it. It was just seeing if the campus was nice, and if I would fit in there, and if I fit in with the players.”
Not only did he fit in with the players, but the fact that Dykes is from Texas and that the Bears have four players returning next year who hail from that state helped him feel more at home.
“Oh, definitely, and also, there were quite a few players from the team that are from Texas. That was the first thing that I found out, when we were down there at that Bonfire,” says McCrary. “I got introduced to all the Texas players, and I was like, ‘Dang, this is nice, not being the only one up there.’”
It’s been some time since there’s been an official visitor during Big Game, and as he sat with his fellow Texans in the seats at the Hearst Greek Theater, McCrary got to see Cal pageantry in full flower – or, in full flame, as it were.
“That was crazy,” McCrary laughs. “It was awesome. It was cool to see the Haka, that was cool, too. It was hot as heck though. Everyone’s face was burning, that’s for sure. I was actually about mid to almost upper, right behind the players, in the back row of where the players were. We all were getting hot, and the players were taking their suit jackets off. When we got out of there, our faces felt toasted a little bit. We saw a lot of the players and talked to the players. It was good to see the whole experience of what I’m going to be there for.”
McCrary – who wants to major in business -- and his father also got to get a closer look at the Haas School of Business.
“Yes, yessir, that was a big reason, their business program,” says McCrary. “I got to meet with one of the professors. That was really a big part.”