The 6-1, 230-pound Hunter leads a veteran linebacking corps that cant wait to kick off the 2004 season. Coach Jeff Tedfords explosive offense receives more national notoriety, but Cals defense is poised to dominate because the unit returns a roster loaded with upperclassmen, including honorable mention All-Pac-10 selection Wendell Hunter. He comments on Coach Tedfords cover schemes, Cal coursework, and career choices in this exclusive interview.
Question #1: Your first year here was Tom Holmoes last as coach. In terms of perception on campus, how has your experience differed as a Cal football player under current Coach Jeff Tedford?
Answer: It has been awesome the last two years. I have seen things change so much since Coach Tedford arrived on campus. The positive response from fellow students and alumni has been amazing. As football players here, people look at us with respect now whereas before they looked down upon us. I can feel and see that difference every day on campus.
Question #2: The team opens against Air Force. Can you break down Cals first opponent?
Answer: Air Force is one of those tough, blue-collar teams that you cant take lightly. Every play, they give it their all. These are military guys so you know they wont quit. And since it is the first game, we wont know what to expect so we need to be on our toes for trick plays. I know we will be prepared though.
Question #3: What is your toughest challenge as a student-athlete?
Answer: We have so many responsibilities in the classroom and on the football field, so time management is the key for me. We want to do everything well so I have learned to focus and concentrate when it is time to study or practice. As I have matured, I have learned how to put my best foot forward and apply myself. My secret is to lock in once I sit down in class or step on the football field. Whether I just had an argument with my girlfriend or my mom, I just leave that at home when it is time to produce.
Question #4: What is your favorite place to eat in Berkeley?
Answer: Thats easy. Everett & Jones Barbecue on San Pablo and University is the best. I love barbecue, so thats my spot. I usually order the chicken sandwich with medium sauce.
Question #5: Who has been your most memorable professor at Cal?
Answer: I really learned a lot from Professor [Andrew] Barlows Sociology 131 class. I learned something useful every day.
Question #6: If you found yourself in a dark alley long after team curfew, which teammates would you want by your side?
Answer: I love Ryan Gutierrez. He would have to be with me because he brings it on every single play. He is not the biggest guy, but he brings it. Donnie McCleskey is another tough guy. Pound-for-pound he might be the fiercest competitor on our squad. And add Tosh Lupoi. He used to be my roommate so I know that Tosh would do anything for a teammate.
Question #7: Without giving away team secrets, can you describe your favorite defensive play?
Answer: We have a blitz play I love. I follow right behind the strong-side linebacker, who sets it up for me. I come right off of him from my weak-side position to chase the quarterback. I made a lot of big plays off that call last year. Its probably my favorite play because I come unblocked most of the time so the chances are high that I will get to the quarterback.
Question #8: During spring practice, did some young guys step up on defense?
Answer: Two corners, Thomas DeCoud and Daymeion Hughes, both had strong spring practices. DeCoud is a great athlete, one of the best on our team. Hes long and fast so he can do it all. Hughes is a playmaker. He is not the biggest guy, but what a competitor. He came out to practice every day looking to demolish people on every play. That is his mindset. He is not the fastest guy, but he plays with passion. He has a demeanor when he puts on his football gear, and it is straight business. I love DeCoud and Hughes.
Question #9: Growing up in southern California, who was your biggest role model?
Answer: My dad, Forrest, has set a great example for me. I learned how to be a man from my dad, how to deal with struggles in life. My dad shaped and molded me into the man I am today. My mom was there too, but my dad influenced me the most.
Question #10: Football aside, ten years from now how are you spending your days?
Answer: I will be running my own dog services and training business. I have a passion for dogs. I love training them. I am designing the business right now, but I cant tell you what it will be called yet. When I am done with football I want to put my signature on dog training and services.
Question #11: What is your favorite television show?
Answer: "Making the Band" on MTV. P. Diddy came up with it and it is funny to watch. It is sort of a reality show about a group of kids trying to make it in music. For me, it is interesting because it is like watching the sociology of people that I have studied in class.
Question #12: What is your favorite sports television show?
Answer: I like watching the NFL draft on ESPN.
Question #13: What is your favorite movie of all time?
Answer: I love "He Got Game." It is a Spike Lee joint that shows how different people respond to the fame of this superstar high school basketball player.
Question #14: Who is your favorite MC?
Answer: I stay faithful to Nas. He is my favorite rapper because he mixes street with intellect. He enlightens me every time I listen to his songs.
Question #15: No Beyonce albums? She is wide receiver Geoff McArthurs favorite artist.
Answer: No. Her music is too soft for a defensive player.
Question #16: How about your favorite book?
Answer: I read a story of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X that was interesting. It compared and contrasted their lives.
Question #17: Can you describe Coach Tedford in a few words?
Answer: No, but I will try. Hes serious, intelligent, and real. He keeps it real with us. He treats us like men. He does not demand anything of us that he would not demand of himself. We appreciate that. He treats us like men. I respect him because I know he will be there for me and I want to be there for him. He always has our back and never puts us out there on our own. He is a great coach.
Question #18: This is a long way from 1-10, isnt it?
Answer: I have been at Cal four years and the transformation of Cal football has been awesome. I never thought I would see thousands of people in the stands for a spring practice, but it is great. I love it, I love it, I love it.
Question #19: How do you feel coming out of spring ball?
Answer: I am so happy that I am healthy and able to contribute. I cant wait for the season to start.
Question #20: Do you have any final thoughts for Cal fans?
Answer: Keep coming out to support us. And Go Bears!
Wendell can rest assured. Cal fans will be backing his Bears all season long, especially when he and his mates sound the cannon on Tightwad Hill with defensive touchdowns.
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