As Taylor Upshaw came into the Bradenton (Fla.) Braden River locker room after practice on Monday, he saw his phone light up. He had multiple notifications from California defensive line coach Fred Tate. One showed a photo edit of Upshaw and his father -- former Bears defensive tackle All-American Regan Upshaw -- and the other said that he wanted Taylor to call him.
"When I got home, I called him, he told me he liked my film and when he found out my father played there it was a done deal," said Taylor Upshaw.
It doesn't take much longer than three plays into the highlights of Upshaw's first four games to see shades of his father -- the violent hands, the quickness, the physical dominance of a 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame. That -- and his 3.9 GPA, proudly displayed on his Twitter bio ("Oh, yeah, I've got to show that off") -- are why the Bears offered him.
"It meant a lot," Upshaw said. "To have the opportunity to play where my dad played is an unbelievable feeling. I'm still shocked."
What one can't see in that first tape is that Upshaw had never played a single down of football before this summer. He played baseball and lacrosse growing up, and varsity basketball as a freshman and a sophomore.
"I wasn't very good at the other sports and I decided to give football a shot," he said.
He'd never seriously lifted weights until, before last summer, he decided he'd try out his father's sport.
"He never pushed me to play football," Upshaw said. "To be honest at first I wanted to make sure I loved the game."
Upshaw began to lift and train over the summer, and by the time his first game -- a scrimmage against River Ridge on Aug. 20 -- he knew he was in the right place.
"The team environment and tackling, it's a good feeling," he said. "It turned out well."
There wasn't any resistance to playing football for Upshaw, nor did his father steer him away from the sport. Taylor was just a bit of a late bloomer. This year was going to be a year to see if he liked the game enough to take it seriously.
"I developed late and wasn't as big as I am now. I wasn't ready for football a year ago," he said.
"Once colleges started contacting me I began to take this seriously," he said. Once I knew that [I loved football], I made a goal for myself. My first goal was to get a scholarship and to make sure I can play at the next level. Once I get to college, the NFL will be the next goal."
After his first real game -- against Bradenton Bayshore -- he was contacted by Miami, and took a visit there the following week. One week later, South Florida became his first offer.
As soon as Upshaw heard Tate extend an offer from the Bears, he began planning his next trip. The first person he told about the offer? His father, naturally.
"I'm very happy," Upshaw said. "He was very excited and he loved the fact that I have the opportunity to play where he once did. He said it wasn't easy. The academics combined with being an athlete is hard to get used to. The work you have to put in is tremendous. But he says that Cal prepared him for the NFL and life after football."
His get-off shows that he's gotten more than a few pointers from his father, but there are a few things he couldn't learn -- power and length -- and that's what struck the Bears coaches, Upshaw said.
Taylor's older brother -- Regan, Jr. -- is a 6-foot-2, 220-pound freshman linebacker for Clemson, and, Taylor says, is still stronger, even after he started lifting. Given the younger Upshaw's frame, that's going to change, and quick. He easily has the space to add 50 more pounds, and go in to college as a 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6, 300-pound defensive lineman. Right now, Upshaw said, he can play both tackle and end, just like his father.
Taylor is still following in the footsteps of both Regan's. His father is in construction management, and that's what his brother is majoring in at Clemson. So, naturally, Cal's Haas School of Business is appealing.
While Taylor's bye week has already passed, he and his father are dead set on finding a time to come out to Berkeley to see Haas and the current Bears program in person. Though Taylor is only a junior, he's going the path of double enrollment -- taking college courses on the side -- and will possibly graduate early. That means a visit to Berkeley, Upshaw said, before the end of his junior season.
"As soon as my schedule opens," Upshaw said, "soon, I'll be coming out."