When Vereen stepped foot on campus as a freshman prior to 2007, he came along with another freshman running back by the name of Jahvid Best. While the flash and speed of Best caught much of the Golden Bear fan base, Vereen patiently ran as the scout team running back.
While Best was getting the glamour, Vereen redshirted, and quietly worked away.
For the next two years, Vereen sat second fiddle to Best. While Best was on Heisman Trophy watch lists and All-American teams, Vereen was the hard, physical worker, which only was fitting because of his nickname: Shane "The Train" Vereen.
But while the styles of Best and Vereen never completely matched, one thing was consistent: tremendous play in the running game. For every highlight reel that Best had, Vereen had one just as impressive. In his first game – the 2008 home opener against Michigan State – Vereen had a fourth quarter, 80-yard touchdown run that proved to be the game-winner. Since then, it is almost as if Vereen never turned back.
Two years later, Vereen finally gets his chance.
The torch has now been passed down from a long legacy under Cal running backs coach Ron Gould, consisting of the likes of Best, Marshawn Lynch, J.J. Arrington, and Justin Forsett. Now, Vereen has the opportunity to come into his own. So how does Vereen handle being in a position with great history and success?
By being humble, and putting the team first.
"I wouldn't consider myself to be 'The Man' or 'The Guy," says Vereen. "We got great backs behind me, who would be willing to fill in regardless of the situation.
"But I am excited for the situation, and for seeing what we can do."
Vereen knows to be humble. That is why when he took over for Best last year after Best's freak injury, Vereen was prepared.
Against rival Stanford, Vereen set a Cal record with 42 rushing attempts for 193 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. In the game, Vereen outperformed Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart, almost as if to set the stage for what is to come. Vereen took it, and came into spring ball determined.
"You see the game in a different way," Vereen says, talking about his experience and using that to his advantage in the offseason. "I came in, lifted more, got healthy, watched film, and just wanted to get better. With Spring almost over, I feel like I accomplished that goal."
So Cal fans, it is time to watch out and witness your next great California running back. Shane "The Train" is coming, and coming fast.
"I can't wait. I just want to win."
All we can do is enjoy the ride.
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