California had a long list of visitors on Saturday for Elite Junior Day, including plenty of local and in-state talent, and one of those Golden State natives was defensive lineman Gabe Cherry, who became the first commit of the 2017 class. Appropriately enough, Cherry, like Austin Aaron, who led off the 2015 class, and Jared Goff, who led off the 2013 class, is a Cal legacy. His great uncle (his grandmother's brother) is Duane Williams, who was an All-Pac-8 offensive lineman and won a Pac-8 co-championship in 1975.
"My great uncle was Joe Roth's center, so I grew up with Cal," Cherry told BearTerritory. "You could say I bleed blue and gold. I grew up wanting to be a Golden Bear."
The Bakersfield (Calif.) Centennial defensive tackle chose the Bears -- his first offer -- over offers from Utah and Washington State Cougars, and he'd already visited the Utes. He came in to this weekend not thinking he was going to commit, but with his family history, and his philosophical agreement with the way Fred Tate runs his defensive line, Cherry said it just clicked.
"I've grown up with Cal, and I've always loved Cal, and I wanted to wait out and see my options, but I really thought that meeting the staff, and the trainers, I just made the decision today: I want to be a Bear," Cherry said.
The 6-foot-5, 265-pounder finished with 39 tackles as a junior, with 8.0 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks and five quarterback hurries.
"I play fast, hard and aggressive -- that's the way I play," Cherry said. "Coach Tate, he runs his defensive line fast and aggressive, and I feel like that's the best fit for me. I love to go after it and get the ball, instead of standing back and reading."
Cherry is long and lean, with a lot of power and speed. Academically, he's a Cal fit, with a 3.96 GPA.
"Cal, that place, I feel like I was raised there, I've watched them my whole life," Cherry said. "The academics were a big part of it, but also, I feel like I can really grow and become a better person there."
The bloodlines are certainly strong. Williams was an all-league wrestler in high school, and a three-sport athlete, as well as a JuCo All-American at Bakersfield College. After his time at Cal, Williams was signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, and then spent 33 years with the Kern County Fire Department, where he retired as a Captain.
The size and strength certainly passed down to his great nephew. Cherry has played mainly defensive end in high school, and shows a mean bull rush off the edge. He has a lean frame that can easily add 20-30 pounds, which will make him a very effective run-plugger up the middle.
Being as tall as he is, playing with good pad level is paramount, and that's exactly what his tape shows. He gets up under the pads of the tackles and uses his long arms very effectively to push into the backfield, and to get of blocks. He keeps his eyes up field and on the ball carrier at all times. His video shows him to be very assignment sound.