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The growth of Shane Vereen

Valencia High graduate Shane Vereen continues to make progress

Posted: November 11, 2008 10:42 p.m.
Updated: November 12, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Valencia High graduate Shane Vereen (34) rushes the ball Saturday for Cal at the Los Angeles Coliseum against the University of Southern California.

 

When do you know when you've truly become a man?

There's no experience, like reaching the top of a mountain, that tells you.

It's not when hair grows on your chest for the first time.

It's a process.

And this valley has watched much of Shane Vereen's process.

It started when he burst onto the scene as a sophomore running back at Valencia High.

One can now see the process on television or in person with thousands of others.

Vereen's exuberance today is striking - a stark difference to days not so long ago.

Never would the public have seen a display like nearly 90,000 people packed into the Los Angeles Coliseum saw Saturday.

"I think it might have been just me trying to get my team going in a big game," says Vereen - the same boyish face he had as a sophomore. "Games get bigger as you get older."

Vereen, now a running back at Cal, caught a would-be 27-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Riley in the third quarter of The Golden Bears' 17-3 loss to USC Saturday.

He looked up to the Cal student section.

Swung his fists.

Pointed.

"Confidence has been a big thing," the 19-year-old says - muscles like hills raising from his shoulders. "Can't play without confidence."

The play was called back because of a penalty, but Vereen was never this emotional in high school.

He always played with confidence, but Vereen was in a shell as a high school sophomore, more vocal as a junior, then took on a leadership role as a senior.

Nearly two years since graduating high school, he is a different person.

Vereen walked through the visitors' locker room at the Los Angeles Coliseum Saturday night and unleashed an angry scream after his team's loss.

In late 2003, Vereen arrived on the Valencia varsity football team, just a freshman. He was called up for the playoffs that year, but he cemented his spot in the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2004.

Thin and wiry were ways to describe him.

Silent was another way - as in the silence he created at an opponent's stadium after scoring a touchdown or the silence you'd get from his voice.

"You've got to remember who he was surrounded by," explains his former coach at Valencia Brian Stiman. "He was surrounded by some big personalities. He was respectful."

There were established stars on the Vikings - players who also played a key role in taking Valencia to a CIF-Southern Section title game that season.

Nonetheless, Vereen didn't so much arrive on the scene as much as he burst onto the scene.
Stiman commented in 2004 that he was high on the kid.

Now, it seems, Stiman was a good prognosticator.

But how does a football coach judge that early that his running back would turn out to be so special.

"The biggest thing that I've always looked for in great running backs to guess on whether they were going to be something special or not is their vision," Stiman says. "The great ones have eyes in the back of their head. It's that vision they have. They play on a field where they could see it all, almost to the point where it's 360 degrees for them."

Vereen had one of the greatest careers for a running back in this valley's prep history.

He ran for 3,966 career yards and scored 91 touchdowns.

Thus, he was highly recruited.

Vereen redshirted as a freshman at Cal, though.

"I'd never gone a season without playing," he says. "I don't know anything else. But I used it to get stronger, get faster, do what I needed to improve."

The growth process took full bloom in Cal's season opener against Michigan State.

Late in the fourth quarter, Vereen scored on an electrifying 81-yard run that cinched the 38-31 victory for the Golden Bears.

"That was unexplainable," he says of the run. "That was the greatest single moment I ever had. The rush that went through my body when that play happened was amazing."

Vereen has seen a lot of action in this, his redshirt freshman season.

He has been part of a one-two punch described as "Lightning and Lightning" with running back Jahvid Best.

Vereen has 589 rushing yards thus far in 2008, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. He has scored three touchdowns and also caught 22 passes.

His head coach at Cal has a lot of confidence in him.

"He's a great football player - a great kid, great person to have on the team," says Cal head coach Jeff Tedford. "He can do it all. He can run. He can catch. He can pass protect. We're very fortunate to have him as one of the two guys (in the backfield)."

But Tedford used an interesting word in describing Vereen - kid.

The progress has been quick, but the process is ongoing.

Even when people talk of Vereen, it's the future they talk of.

"Good as he wants to be," says former Canyon High and current Cal quarterback Nate Longshore. " I think the sky's the limit for that guy."

As confident as Vereen has become and the fact that he went away from home for college aren't benchmarks for his manhood.

They may be part of it, though.

But Vereen says he's not a man yet.

"I've still got things I need to work on," he says. "But eventually you'll see it."

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