The offices of Genuine Sports Group are tucked away on the sixth floor of a building on Maiden Lane, in a nondescript building with no sign, on a street off of Union Square, lined with high-fashion boutiques. On the sixth floor, sitting in a chair, pushed away from a conference room table, legs splayed, wearing jeans, a flat-brimmed charcoal Chicago Bulls fashion ball cap, with his Armed Forces Bowl zip-up hoodie just barely zipped past his belt, sits former California safety Damariay Drew.
Almost exactly a year before his interview with BearTerritory, Drew crumbled to the turf after tearing his ACL near the end of spring practices. He's been working out for NFL teams over the past several weeks, crisscrossing the country as he tries to catch someone's eye before the NFL Draft, slated for April 27-29.
"I don't even really think I wait for them to ask me," said Drew. "I just go in and really just be on top of it, tell them what happened, and how I've moved on and moved forward, and things like that ... They've all seen everything I've done, and so it's just about being up front with them, and painting the picture of what really happened, rather than everything they have out there, and kind of one side of the story. My side of the story has never really been out."
Drew promised his mother, Timia Everett, who raised three children as a single mother on a bus driver's salary, that he'd get his degree from Berkeley.
He promised himself that he'd become a professional football player. In May of 2014, neither the degree, nor the possibility of playing in the NFL seemed possible, and Drew had nobody to blame but himself.
"I still think about that situation, all the time, thinking, 'If it didn't happen, would I have torn my ACL? Could I have come out after last year?' So many thoughts running through my head," Drew said.
Just as finals were about to begin, Drew and several of his teammates attended the annual South Seas party at Sigma Alpha Epsilon, on Bancroft Way. It was a drinking party, Drew said, so, naturally, he'd had a few drinks.
"I was just having a good time with my teammates, and a little dog was there, playing. It came up to me," Drew said. "I started petting it, whatever, playing with the dog. Then, it just, I pretty much told the dog to, 'Go away now,' I was done playing with it, or whatever. It just kept coming back to me, jumping on me and barking and stuff. You know, I wasn't really mad, or anything. I was just like, 'Alright, whatever, I'm done playing with you,' you know? He kept coming back, kept coming back, and then he jumped on my leg. I kind of nudged it off of my leg."
The owner of that 20-pound Jack Russell terrier mix, SAE brother Matthew Lavine-Edwards, confronted Drew.
"I just moved my leg quickly to get it off of me, and then, the next thing you know, it was getting blown out of proportion, and the owner comes up to me, and he's like, 'What are you doing? People are telling me you're messing with my dog,' or whatever," Drew said. "I don't think he'd seen the incident -- me playing with the dog or anything like that. I guess someone told him I had kicked his dog, or something, to that extent. Pretty much, he was getting in my face, telling me I needed to leave the party. He was a member of the frat that I was at. He was telling me I just needed to leave, or whatever, and I was like, 'No, I'm not going to leave.'"
Drew has replayed what happened next almost every day, since.
"I didn't do anything wrong," Drew told Lavine-Edwards. "I just told your dog to leave me alone. I was playing with it, and I was done playing."
Drew's voice cracked as he recounted his own words, knowing what he did next.
"'What's the issue here?'" Drew said. "He then goes on to push me, and so, after he pushed me, pretty much, I just hit him two times."
According to an affidavit by Berkeley Police Department Sgt. Peter Hong, Drew then threatened Lavine-Edwards, saying, “I’m going to fuck you up,” before punching him at least three times and breaking his jaw, according to Hong.
One of the former Bears at the party, quarterback Zach Kline -- who was still living on Piedmont Ave., after transferring to Diablo Valley College -- didn't see the punches, but he saw the aftermath, as teammates hustled Drew out of the party.
"I knew, right when it happened," Kline said. "I didn't see when it happened happened, but I saw seconds after. There was an energy change from it."
The air, Kline said, was sucked out of the party.
"You knew, all the football guys, man, things got real, real quick," Kline said. "The party was over, right after that. There was a lot of uncertainty."
"I should have just known to get out of the situation, and take myself out of it," Drew said.
The 5-foot-11, 208-pound Drew admitted to at least being buzzed.
"I had a couple things to drink, but I wasn't to the point where I didn't know what was going on," Drew said. "I still think, in that situation, if I was sober, um, I don't know. If I was sober, I don't know if I would have done it, but I still would have been angry about the fact that he was saying I did something I didn't do. I don't know how much the drinking had to do with it."
As Drew said that, he paused, and cocked his head.
"Maybe," he said. "Now that I think back on it, you know, maybe."
Maybe he wouldn't have struck Lavine-Edwards. Maybe the situation wouldn't have escalated.
"It was a dumb mistake on my part," Drew said. "You get into arguments with people, but it's never the right route to go on and hit them."
You've Got to Be Smarter
The next morning, May 5, Drew went to Memorial Stadium for a workout.
"We have workouts in the morning, so I went to workouts, and nothing [was said]," Drew said. "Just teammates talking in the locker room about what happened. I would say two days later, coach Dykes gave me a call, and said, 'What happened? Break it down for me.' I guess, at that time, the guy's parents had given coach Dykes a call, or somebody in the school -- I don't know who -- and told them that he's going to press charges, just preparing me for what was going to happen next."
Drew also called his mother.
"I was like, 'Yeah, so, I got in a fight, and I don't really know what's going to happen, but I just want you to be prepared,'" Drew said. "Initially, she was more trying to support me, rather than just get on me, automatically. But, then, as time went on, obviously, she asked me what was going on: 'You've got to be smarter than that.' Obviously, her words stuck with me a lot. Another, I guess I would say, learning experience for me, seeing my mom. She was hurt.
"I made a promise to her before I left to go to Cal that I would graduate. She said, 'You're putting your education in jeopardy by doing these types of things. You've got to be smarter. Just take your schooling seriously.' She didn't care about football at that point, or anything. She's like, 'You've got to get your degree, and you've got to make a better life for yourself.'"
'You've got to be smarter' -- those words rang in Drew's ears, and did for the next year.
The reported details of that day have ranged from Drew being deathly afraid of dogs (he's admitted a fear of them, but not so bad that it prevented him from initially playing with the dog), to Drew defending himself from a vicious dog attack. The number of punches differs in the official account -- Lavine-Edwards said it was at least three times, and Drew said it was two. Drew said he merely shook his leg to get the dog off of him; Lavine-Edwards said that Drew kicked his dog.
What's not in dispute is the fact that, on Tuesday, May 6, 2014, Drew was arrested and booked on suspicion of committing felony battery, with serious bodily injury, and inflicting great bodily injury in the commission of a felony. His bail was set at $100,000, and he was put in a cell in Berkeley City Jail, three blocks from the Berkeley campus.
Drew spent the next three days and two nights in a holding cell with another individual. He remembered nothing, other than the fact that he couldn't sleep, and couldn't eat. He didn't even remember his cellmate's ethnicity, or his face.
"It was horrible. Just sitting in there," Drew's voice cracked. "Just two weeks ago, I was working out with my teammates, and now, I'm sitting in a jail cell for a dumb mistake on my part."
Drew took the top bunk. All he could do was stare at the concrete, inches from his face.
"While I was sitting in there, I had a lot of time to reflect, and just, I know how I wanted my life to end up, and it wasn't like that," Drew said.
Drew's father, Charles Drew, was in and out of jail throughout his son's youth.
"He was never really in my life, so I guess I didn't really get the first-hand take," Drew said. "I just knew he was in jail, but I didn't know what he was doing, and never really [...] I should have learned from that, just knowing he did go to jail, but I guess it wasn't the greatest example."
Everett did just fine on her own for her three children -- Tim, 26; Damariay, 23; and daughter Timia, 16 -- in Livermore.
"Shoot, I felt like I grew up middle class, but definitely, I would say lower-middle class, just because my mom worked hard, and she really sacrificed a lot of the things she needed to provide for her kids," Drew said. "Growing up, I had everything I wanted, never was hungry, played AAU basketball, traveling baseball, and all those things cost money."
Drew had been in some fights in his life, but not since he got to Cal.
"I always wanted to go back there. It was kind of my dream school, growing up," Drew said. "I lived so close, and went to a bunch of Cal games, and once they offered, I was in. There was no other school I wanted to go to."
A lightly-recruited safety out of Livermore (Calif.), Drew put on a show in a local all-star game in December of 2011. The head coach of Danville (Calif.) Monte Vista, Craig Bergman, knew then-Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. He sent Tedford film of the game, exhorting the Bears to offer Drew, who, at that time, had offers from Fresno State, Nevada and San Jose State.
Academically, Drew had a rough start to high school, figuring that he had a freshman grade point average somewhere in the 1.0-2.0 range. Once he had started to get that Mountain West interest, though, he'd buckled down.
"I think I knew I was good enough," Drew said, "but I didn't really take school that seriously, up to that point, and once I started to get my first offer, which was the beginning of my junior year, that's when I really ramped up my schooling, and started to do extra tutoring, just so I could be able to be eligible for whoever offered. I started off pretty rough.
"My senior year, everybody else was leaving at lunch, and I was taking two more extra classes, re-taking classes, trying to get better grades. I was just grinding my whole senior year and the end of my junior year, just grinding and trying to raise my grades. I think I ended up taking the SAT three times. I was even thinking about taking it one more time right before my Senior Ball, which was right before I was about to go to Cal."
By the time he graduated, Drew had a 2.9.
The work he did to get to that point, and the serendipity that paved his path to Cal -- none of that mattered in that jail cell. Charges were filed on May 12, and on June 10, 2014, Drew was officially charged with criminal assault, "with force likely to produce great bodily injury."
That great bodily injury, according to an affidavit by Sgt. Hong, was Lavine-Edwards's broken jaw. Drew was facing up to four years in a state prison.
Drew was immediately suspended from the football team, pending the outcome of his case. Out on bail, he did what he could to finish the school year in good academic standing.
"This situation happened toward the end of finals, so I was finishing up my finals, and then, I started to go to court and what not, going into court every two weeks or something like that, and just kind of getting the same results -- nothing's changed, really," Drew said. "It's just going in there and telling my side of the story. Then, summer hits. I'm going to summer school, and still, just trying to figure out what's going to be my next step, and what's going to happen. I would say about July, towards the end of July, I was starting to figure out that this trial wasn't going to be wrapped up, so I wasn't going to be able to play that year."
Knowing that he faced a long court battle ahead of him, Drew, finishing up summer school at Berkeley that July, called an old friend -- Kline. The two had grown up playing against each other, since the age of eight. Drew knew of Kline, and Kline certainly knew of Drew, as they clashed on the high school gridiron.
Kline had already resolved to attend Butte Community College in 2015, after a transfer to Oregon State fell through, thanks to the father of former teammate Jordan Rigsbee, Butte athletic director Craig Rigsbee.
"When I found out that Damariay was suspended, me and the Rigsbees are great friends, and friends of Damariay, we were like, 'Why sit out? Why not just come to Butte, play, you're up in the middle of nowhere up in Oroville,'" Kline said. "I was going to be there, Rigs is there. 'Let's come up here, away from Berkeley, away from all of this everything, and kind of refocus. Let's separate ourselves from this moment, where you can, in a way, take a step back and re-evaluate everything. Take everything from the foundation, and go back up, start over.' I think that was really important. I think that was a really important moment for Damariay. As a friend, I think that was a point where it was him determining who he was, not other people determining who he was."
Up in Oroville, Calif., over 150 miles from Memorial Stadium, there was nothing but football for Drew. All else was stripped away. There were no more crowds of 60,000 people watching him. When he hit an opposing ball carrier, there were no throngs to erupt. There were just echoes.
"It was the main constant in my life," Drew said. "I'd been playing since I was eight years old. Every time I was on the field, I was comfortable, and it just felt good. Coming off the field, obviously, I had those times where I'd think about the situation and wish I could change it, go back and what could I have done differently, and all those thoughts going through your head, when it's going on. It was a tough time, being at Butte, but football definitely helped me get through that situation."
While playing for the Roadrunners, Drew pulled down a team-high three interceptions for a team-leading 62 yards and two touchdowns, blocked three kicks, recorded 53 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and four pass breakups.
"I didn't talk to the [Cal] coaches much during the season," said Drew. "I talked to them a little bit, and I came up to a couple of games and watched them play, but it wasn't really like they had to recruit me or anything, because I already knew what I wanted to do."
Florida State inquired about his services, but Drew had only one final destination in mind.
"I already knew, initially, that I was going back [to Cal]," Drew said. "From the moment I left, I was going back. There was never a doubt in my mind. I had relayed that message to the coaches, too. I wanted to come back here; I just wanted to play a year of football. That was the main thing: 'I'm coming back; I just have to go handle this first, then come back and play.' It was never a thought about leaving Cal. It was always that I was coming back."
On June 8, 2015, Drew was sentenced to five years felony probation and credit for time served. His attorney, Darryl A. Stallworth, petitioned the court to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor, provided he complete 30 hours of community service. Drew had already attended three counseling sessions, and three anger management sessions.
"Even the counselor, she said, 'I wouldn't consider you having anger problems; I think you just didn't like him putting his hands on you, and obviously, you shouldn't have gone about it that way, but I don't think you have anger issues because of that,'" Drew said. "That's what a lot of other people were trying to say, too: 'Oh, he has anger problems, and he just snapped.' That was really hard for me to see myself in that light, especially as it was coming out on the news."
Drew used his hours of community service to volunteer at the Oakland Boys and Girls Club on High Street. He supervised over 160 youth, led football clinics, provided mentorship and interest in the club's exercise program.
While at Butte, he applied for re-admission to Berkeley, and set about arranging financial aid. If he was going to come back, he wouldn't be on scholarship.
By the time his community service was completed, in early July, he'd already set about registering for summer school courses -- Sociology 5 and Sociology 190 -- at Cal. His return to the team, though, had to wait.
"My first term of the summer, I wasn't reinstated to the team, yet, so I was just a student, just going to classes. It was rough, seeing all my teammates, and stuff." Again, Drew's voice cracked. "They had told me I would have been reinstated, but I don't know what held the process up for so long. I was initially supposed to be reinstated at the beginning of the summer, and I even went to the first summer workout. The strength coach was like, 'I guess they said you just can't do it yet.'"
Drew was turned away from the team's first workout of the summer. Head of strength and conditioning Mike Blasquez and then-football strength coach Damon Harrington said he couldn't participate. He hadn't be reinstated yet.
"I thought this was all resolved, and everything was worked out, so what's going on now?" Drew said. "I was mad about it. I was like, 'Am I going to be able to play, or what?'"
After a break between the two summer sessions of classes -- which also included a break from workouts -- Drew and the rest of the Bears returned. Drew was hesitant, at first. He'd been turned away before. Through every warmup, with every step he took, he was afraid he'd be told to leave again. He wasn't.
"Just to be back at Cal after leaving, and going through all the stuff I went through, I just couldn't be happier," Drew said.
Drew was wrong. After his first season back -- in which he made 70 tackles, ranking third on the team behind Hardy Nickerson and Kyle Kragen -- he ranked third on the Cal defense with 7 tackles at the Armed Forces Bowl. After he stepped off the field at Amon G. Carter Stadium, Drew had never felt more content.
"I wasn't sure what to expect, coming back from JC ball. I was like, 'It's kind of taken a year out of my development,' and obviously, I did go backwards in that situation," Drew said. "The competition wasn't nearly as good, so I wasn't really sure what to expect from that season. I just had one season in mind, and I was just hungry to win the starting job, first of all, and to play the best I can play. I think, just since I was able to come back and be at Cal again, I was really hungry, so I'm glad the season went the way it did, and I think I really improved from my freshman year, to that point."
'I knew right away'
Six months after that first conditioning session, as Drew was walking off the field in Texas, he had the world at his feet. Agents had been calling his mother, watching his games. He'd helped the Bears come back from a 1-11 season in 2013 to winning a bowl game. He had football back, and he had his life back. The day after the bowl game, Drew said, was the happiest he's ever been.
"Yeah. I was pretty psyched about that," Drew said. "Coming back, first season back, winning a bowl game -- they'd barely missed it the year before, so I wasn't happy, but I was like, 'OK, I'm not missing a bowl game,' -- but it was real good for our whole program. Coming from that 1-11 season, them almost making a bowl game in 2014 and to being able to be a part of the team that made Cal's first bowl game since Tedford was there, it was exciting, and I was just happy to be a part of the team. The whole experience out there in Texas, and being able to be with my teammates, pretty much after that year, my whole class was gone, almost. I was kind of the old dude on the team, the fifth-year senior. We had one or two people left from my class."
Four months later, on April 6, 2016, Drew was in tears, sitting on the turf of Memorial Stadium, with a torn ACL.
"I was up in the box, and we were running a blitz," Drew said. "My responsibility for that play was to spy the running back. If he released, obviously I had him in man, and if he stepped in and blocked, then I would insert myself late into the blitz. So, I kind of saw it late. I saw him step up to block late, and I just remember coach [Greg] Burns hammering me every time -- 'You've got to hit it hard! You've got to go!' -- so I saw it late, so I was trying to go faster than normal."
The running back, Fabiano Hale, was taking on the defensive end, to block him, and when he was pushed by the defensive end, he wound up rolling, right onto Drew's leg.
"As I was coming in, I got barely clipped by one of the O-linemen," Drew said. "He saw me late and kind of stuck his arm out, and so it nudged me to move to my left a little. My left leg was planted in the ground, and the running back rolled over my leg as it was planted in the ground."
Drew heard a pop. There was only one thing it could have been.
"Oh, yeah, I knew right away. I knew right away," Drew said. "I was like, I think I just broke down in tears. I just knew. That's an ACL for sure. I was telling the trainers: 'I heard it. I think it's the ACL.' They're like, 'Oh, you can't think that way right now; you've got to think positive.' I'm like, 'Well, I'm trying to.'"
The power of positive thinking wasn't going to heal the knee.
"I could feel it. It did not feel good," Drew said. "I kind of know. I was running through so many emotions at that time. I knew my season was over at that point."
The day after Drew got his MRI, that self-diagnosis was confirmed.
"The day after, I got the MRI, I was in the doctor's office, and I talked to the technician," Drew said. "You know they're not supposed to tell you anything, but I was like, 'This is my senior year at Cal. How does it look, man? Be honest with me.' He's like, 'You know I can't really disclose that information.' I'm just like, 'Should I plan on being out a while?' He just kind of looked at me, and after that, I knew."
Five days later, Dykes announced that Drew would have surgery.
"Shoot, after junior year, that's why I was so hurt [emotionally] once I got hurt -- right when junior year ended, I started to get a bunch of calls from agents, and people saying, 'They got you projected to go third round,' or whatever, 'Just play your senior year; you're going to get invited to the Senior Bowl and the Combine,' and all this and that," Drew said. "I was just excited to play that year, and once the injury happened, a lot of people backed off from me. A lot of agents stopped calling me so much. I would say, once the season ended again at Cal, is when it started to pick back up for me. People started to remember who I was, and I was getting healthier and healthier, so people started taking me on again."
Drew made his peace with the prognosis, for a time.
"Once the season hit, it was hitting me all over again, that I wasn't really going to be able to get on the field. I'd just seen how the injury was coming along, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to make it back for the last couple games, so it kind of hit me again," Drew said. "I would say, probably soon after the season ended, I was like, 'Alright, I can only do one thing now, and that's get ready for the NFL.'"
Still Dreaming the Dream
In December, he was contacted by Genuine Sports Group. Though agent Ronak Patel wasn't one of the agents to contact Drew during his junior year, he'd kept an eye on the local product.
"We didn't call him, but we followed him, after his junior year," Patel said. "We talked to his mom, went to his games. Just meeting his mom, talking to his mom a lot, during his 2015 junior year, we got to know his mom a little bit, and then, obviously, looking at his story, as well, what happened off the field, and how he came back, and then obviously we saw an awesome football player on the field that could be versatile in any kind of defensive scheme. We kept an eye on him, even after he got hurt, kept following him and seeing how he was doing, through his mom. Once we got to know him, we saw that he was just a good kid who made a mistake, and that's about it."
So, Drew went, with Kline, back to the gym they worked in as high school players -- California Strength -- to prepare for his Pro Day at Cal.
"I'd seen what they'd done for players, and how he's improved their 40 times, and all their other short shuttles and bench press and everything like that, and it was close," Drew said. "I was still trying to finish up school, so it was a no-brainer."
"The Damariay that I had seen in the past, nine or 10 weeks that we were training, he was focused," Kline said. "He was determined. Regardless of all these things that happened, he was going to keep going. The injury, when he popped the kid at the party, all these things would have a lot of guys say, 'I think I'm done.' He kept going. He grew as a man. He understands the consequences of actions, and he understands the gravity of being an athlete in this day and age, and how you're under a microscope."
There was a point during the season when Dykes posited the hope that Drew could return for the final two games of the year. Drew knew fairly soon that he wouldn't be taking the field again in a uniform -- at least at Cal.
"I guess towards the end of the year would have been six months, but nah, I just knew how the rehab was going along, and it was not ready to go yet, and I wasn't even going to risk it." Drew said.
If he did come back early, he ran the risk of shredding the knee again, and "then I'd definitely have no chance of doing Pro Day or anything like that. I just kind of took my losses and started to train," Drew said.
Even by Cal's Pro Day, on March 24, Drew said, he still wasn't anywhere near 100 percent, as evidenced by his 4.6-second 40-yard dash. Drew was "definitely" disappointed.
"They had one one thing 4.57, and another 4.62, and they just put it at a 4.60. But, I was definitely disappointed with that, because I know I can run faster than that," Drew said. "I would say I'm about 85% to 90%, so it's just that little, tiny bit."
The knee was good enough for a 35-inch vertical leap, though. He ran 6.99 seconds in the L-drill, posted a short-shuttle time of 4.44, and pushed out 15 bench press reps of 225 pounds.
"Everybody just wanted to see that I was healthy and that I was moving in the right direction, and that I could still play, and I could still move," Drew said. "I think I've heard pretty good things. They've seen I can run and move, still, and I'm still getting better. I'm still going. Things are looking pretty good, but I'm still staying optimistic about it. I'm just seeing what's going to happen."
Now, instead of a potential top-three round pick, Drew's professional aspirations have had to be adjusted downwards, and he's talked to several of his former Cal teammates about it.
"I've talked to Stef[an McClure], I've talked to Darius Powe quite a bit about everything, like how are these visits, what should I expect," Drew said. "I talked to Kenny Lawler, telling him I was going up to Seattle, and he was kind of giving me some pointers and tips, of how to go about it these next couple of weeks before the draft, and to just not get too high on anything, just stay composed throughout the whole process and keep working out and keep grinding. I'm going to have to compete when I come into camp, and I know that. I'm just hungry to play football."
McClure and Powe were both signed as undrafted free agents. McClure spent the entire season with the Indianapolis Colts practice squad, while Powe spent the year on the practice squad for the New York Giants.
"He talked to myself, and DP a little bit, mainly [we told him] to go out there and keep competing, to do everything that he can to get ready, and don't get discouraged with any outcome that comes with not getting drafted," said McClure. "You get an opportunity, you've just got to make the best of it."
McClure, a former Bears safety who underwent trials of his own, knows just how difficult it is to come back from a knee injury.
"I reached out to him, and told him to stay positive, keep his head up, and that he can make it out of it," McClure said. "It's not the worst thing that could happen. He's been through worse, and he'll bounce back from that."
"Everybody's telling me to stay ready to go," Drew said. "This time is the most important time to come in, and you're going to have to compete, no matter what route it is, whether you get drafted in the first round or go undrafted free agent. You're going to have to come in and work. Everybody's just been telling me to get ready for that. I think I have interest from teams, but I don't know what's going to happen."
Over the past year, Drew had been gathering his thoughts, hoping against hope that he can play football again. It's what sustained him during his year of exile, and it's what's kept him grinding, even in obscurity.
"It was tough, just sitting there and watching my teammates, just wishing I could help them, but obviously, I couldn't, so it was real tough, sitting down, especially since I had to go to Butte for that year, and missing my senior year," he said. "I wouldn't wish it on anybody, man. It was rough."
Drew's mother would rather he stuck to finishing his schooling -- he has one class left (Sociology 102) before walking with his degree in May -- but as much as the promise he made to her means, that's how much the promise of the NFL means to him.
"It took me a little bit of time to bounce back, but, shoot, now that I've got the whole process going on, I'm feeling good again," Drew said. "I just can't wait to play football, get on the field again. I'm excited."