Growing up a Cal fan and playing in the shadow of the Golden Bears in Danville then in Pleasant Hill at DVC, defensive end Kyle Kragen's whirlwind courtship with Cal saw him commit to the Bears on his official visit last weekend.
"It's great to be able to play for Cal," said Kragen. "I grew up a Cal fan, going to their games since I was little. My grandpa has had tickets for like 30 or 40 years."
Cal got in on Kragen's recruitment late in the game but once they did, they moved quickly.
"After the previous staff left and before the new coaches came in, I got a call from Ben Steele, Cal's defensive grad assistant. "He said they were interested in me and that the new staff would pick things up with me soon.
"So far, I've gotten to know Ben, the other GA, Tag McCurdy and Coach Dykes, mainly. He was there the whole recruiting weekend.
"He's really funny and really easy to talk to. He's the most comfortable coach to talk to that I've ever met. You can tell he's just a great coach.
"With Cal's facilities and their success they've had in the past along with Coach Dykes and his new staff and the returning players like Zach, I expect a lot from the program in coming years."
The 6-4/245 Kragen is the son of former NFL star and current Oakland Raiders trainer Greg Kragen. Kragen's father Greg was a nose tackle in his 13-year NFL career with the Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs and Carolina Panthers and played in the 1989 Pro Bowl and in three Super Bowls.
"I wasn't going to play football till my dad encouraged me to give it a try in high school," said Kragen. "Besides that, he's always been hands-off but always there to help when I needed it. He always helped when I asked."
"I kind of wanted him to blaze his own trail," said Kragen's father, Greg. "I wanted him to be sure that football was something he wanted to do versus me trying to force him. I had to make a choice about either being an overbearing parent or backing off and giving him room to make his own decision. I'd like to think I did it the right way but you never know. I figured it would all work out for him.
"Sizewise, he was a little bit of a late bloomer. I didn't start playing till high school, either. I always played undersized my whole career but he might even be ahead of where I was at that stage.
"He was playing linebacker in high school and much of his first year at DVC. And in his junior year, he dislocated his elbow and didn't play much till the end of his junior season so he was behind a little bit but end is really a more natural position for him. This was really his first full year playing there.
"I think Kyle's got a good feel for rushing the passer. As he continues to develop as a defensive lineman being pretty new there still, he'll just continue to get better. He'll have to go out and compete and improve himself and I look forward to seeing the results.
"I'm thrilled for him and proud of him and being able to be a student at Cal is a great opportunity, too. I'd have liked to have gone to Cal myself but didn't have the grades."
Kragen will be joining former San Ramon Valley High School teammate Zach Kline at Cal and the two have been friends in recent years, working out together at Cal Strength in San Ramon. Kragan was a senior when Kline was brought up to varsity as a sophomore in 2009.
"We knew how good he was and were kind of hoping he'd play a little bit more as a sophomore," said Kragen. "He played a little bit early and a little late. You could tell how good he'd be."
Kragen played at a much lighter weight in high school, at around 205 lbs but has added some solid weight in the last year and a half.
"I've been able to gradually work up to where I am now and have found a good balance of weight and explosiveness," said Kragen, who estimates his forty time at 4.7.
Kragen finished fifth in the state with 14.5 sacks along with 65 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He'd committed to Illinois just a week before on an official visit till his visit to Berkeley convinced him he moved too soon.
The 3 star end played with one of the top junior college players in the country in current USC starting defensive end Morgan Breslin last season and the success of Breslin rubbed off in a big way on Kragen.
"Morgan's one of my best friends," said Kragen. "I talk to him all the time and record every one of his games and analyze every snap. We talk about what he was thinking in different situations.
"He had a lot to do with my success with me being able to incorporate some of the moves he taught me."
Breslin had good things to say about his protoge, as well.
"Kyle's a quick learner and he has the athletic capability that allow him to execute what he's been taught," said Breslin.
"Kyle is scrappy. That's the best way to describe him."
If Kragen can play in the mould of Breslin or like his father, Greg, the opportunity to have an impact is definitely there for him.
"I think I'm different than a lot of players in that I'm really focused in what I'm doing and in finding ways to get to the quarterback," said Kragen.
A 3.2 gpa student, Kragen will be a mid-year entrant at Cal since he was a full-qualifier out of high school and will enroll at Cal next month after signing this week.
To view Kragen's highlights, use the embedded viewer below: