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The Long Road Home

Nate Longshore has come a long way from Canyon Cowboy to Cal Bear

Posted: November 16, 2008 9:31 p.m.
Updated: November 17, 2008 4:55 a.m.

Golden Bears' quarterback and Canyon High product, Nate Longshore takes a snap in their Nov. 8 meeting with USC at the Coliseum. Longshore battled through personal tragedy and injuries during his career.

 
There is no outward show of pain.

No grimace or grievance.

But pain must be somewhere.

The last four years of Nate Longshore's life, his ankle, his heart, his ears and his head have all been injured.

The way he answers one question might give some insight into how the Canyon High graduate and Cal Berkeley quarterback feels.

Is he happy?

Longshore, having just watched his team lose 17-3 to USC Nov. 8 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, pauses.

He searches for the right way to give an answer, evident by a mumble that delays it.

Then he doesn't truly answer the question.

"You can't take that home with you," he says. "I've learned a lot. Your loved ones don't deserve to be treated like that - no matter what."

"That" is the flow of nasty words and boos Longshore has received over the course of his four years at Cal.

"Nate Longshore sucks."

"I hate Nate Longshore."

It can be heard from Berkeley to cyberspace.

Yet many of the one-sided fans who have questioned Longshore have ignored his personal struggles.

They forgot Longshore had to redshirt in 2005 after he nearly broke his ankle in the second quarter of his first career start.

They didn't sympathize with Longshore after the death of his father, Todd, prior to the 2006 season. They cared little of his performance in the 2006 Holiday Bowl, when Longshore was named Co-Offensive Player of the Game with Marshawn Lynch.

Nor do they think playing with bone chips in his ankle in 2007 was particularly heroic.

They think of the interceptions, the losses and the missed opportunities.

When freshman quarterback Kevin Riley came in to relieve Longshore late in the 2007 season, it was a breath of fresh air for many Cal fans.

Many of those same people hoped Riley would unseat Longshore from his starting job in 2008, and he did.
Yet injuries and inconsistency have forced Riley in and out of the lineup.

But some are still satisfied that Longshore has less opportunity than in the past.

Longshore struggled mightily in the season opener against Michigan State. He threw just five passes in the game. Two of them were interceptions. He has bounced back, though and has thrown for 846 yards and eight touchdowns to four interceptions in eight games.

But he's lost a step.

It forced him out of the game against USC.

Longshore started and was an 11-of-15 for 79 yards, but he was sacked on the last play of the first half.

To match up better with the athletic USC defense, Riley took over in the second half.

Longshore has accepted his role with dignity, according to Cal head coach Jeff Tedford.

"Nate's been solid," Tedford says." He's been through a lot of ups and downs, but he's a team-above-self guy. He always hangs in for the team, does what you ask him to do, very supportive of his teammates as well. He's a quality kid - great leader on our team."

Longshore's reaction to Tedford's comments is swift in delivery.

"I don't know what that means," he says. "I don't know what all that coach talk means. I just know I care about my teammates. We've been through a lot together. No matter what happens, I'm always going to care about my teammates."

So much so that Longshore and his new wife Rachel invite players over their home for dinner.

Valencia graduate and Cal running back Shane Vereen is one of those players.

Vereen acknowledges that Longshore has been under fire, but he says his teammate has taken the criticism in stride.

"He's always himself," Vereen says. "You'll never know if he's down or not. He's always up, always picking everybody up, very enthusiastic, very encouraging. My hat's off to him because he comes in week in and week out and gives it his all. He's facing a lot of adversity and still comes out and does his thing."

The future is very uncertain for Longshore.

Prior to this season, he was a definite National Football League prospect.

He has the size (6 feet 5 inches and 233 pounds) and strength (he owns the Cal quarterbacks record with a 370-pound bench press) that would seem to entice pro football general managers.

But with a string of injuries and his playing time diminished, there is doubt.

"Who knows?" Longshore says. "Time will tell."
He's used to the doubts by now, though.

It seems that what no matter what others say and all the pain that's been caused, there's a place where Nate Longshore can go where people love him.

A place where no one questions him about missing a receiver on a slant or lambasts him for a team's loss.
A place called home.

Longshore married Saugus graduate Rachel Gibson May 10.
He says he always had his eyes on her.

That she wouldn't give him the time of day so he lied to people, saying she was his girlfriend anyway.

"I tricked her into marrying me," he joked.

Happiness?

Not all athletes find it on the field.

"I think it's all about having loved ones you can count on," he says. "My wife has been great support. It's all about family.

"Things always don't go as you plan. You go with it and try to make the most of it"

cosborne@the-signal.com


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