Thursday, January 16, 2014

Football News: Now and Then

Colton Schmidt got booted once by the San Francisco 49ers but the former Aggie punter has been given second life by the team which is headed to Seattle this weekend for the NFC Championship.

Schmidt, who set school records for season (44.48, 2012) and career averages (41.12), signed a contract as undrafted free agent with the 49ers last summer and played well during the exhibition season. He averaged 48.7 yards per punt, 11th-best in the NFL during the preseason, and routinely put balls into the endzone while handling kickoffs.
Colton Schmidt

He even had a celebrated tackle of Denver speedster Trindon Holliday on a kickoff, saving a potential touchdown.

But, admittedly, it was an uphill climb for Schmidt who was brought in primarily to give all-pro punter Andy Lee a rest before the regular season. Still, he was able to perform well enough that after he was released to be picked up briefly for the Cleveland Browns.

Schmidt, an All-Big Sky Conference first-team pick as a senior, didn't catch on with an NFL team during the regular season but is being given another chance with the 49ers after signing a futures contract with the club earlier this week. He said via email that it's essentially the same contract he had last year but this time he'll be able to go through San Francisco's spring workouts leading up to next season.

Pinned in his own endzone with little room to kick during a preseason encounter against the Kansas City Chiefs, Schmidt launched a 62-yard punt that, undoubtedly, opened a few eyes around the league.

Here's hoping more eyes find Schmidt before the next season.


What's a Grant Bowl?

Mark Honbo, assistant director of athletics communications, isn't easily stumped on matters of Aggie history. 

Want to know when boxing flourished at UC Davis? Ask Mark. Curious about the extinct men's gymnastics team from the 1980s? Ask Mark. If he doesn't know the answer, he can instantly tell you where to find it or if the answer is even to be found.

His knowledge of all-things-Aggie-history is invaluable, particularly when it comes to the annual Cal Aggie Athletics Hall of Fame. His research on the nominees is vital during the selection process, his acumen in helping the committee analyze all the information is high, and his resulting multimedia presentations that are part of the ceremonies are amazing.

It's no wonder then that every once in a while it's fun to see him truly stumped by something as trivial as the location of a football game. That's right, buried on page 58 of this year's football media guide is a list of locations for every Causeway Classic dating back to the inaugural matchup in 1954. (A 14-0 Aggie win, by the way). 

Among the series records for Toomey Field, Aggie Stadium, Hughes Stadium and Hornet Stadium, there is a notation that the Aggies hold a 2-1 record against Sac State at the Grant Bowl. Nothing in our files says where the Grant Bowl was/is located. Not even the internet gods helped. If Mark couldn't find the Grant Bowl, maybe it didn't exist.

Sometimes, though, you need to use a better source, such as someone that was actually there.

Welcome in Lonnie Cagle, an ardent Aggie supporter and former running back who rushed for more than 1,400 yards in his career, scored 12 touchdowns, had a 100-yard game against San Francisco State and once ripped off an 83-yarder against the Cal Ramblers. He played from 1955-56 and 1958-59.

Turns out Lonnie was my tablemate at November's football banquet and as we talked about the first Causeway Classics, he mentioned a couple of the games were played at nearby American River College. Once I mentioned that to Mark it hit is both that perhaps, just maybe, ARC was site of the Grant Bowl. 

Lonnie's years matched up to the games at the Grant Bowl. Perusing the ARC website, we learned that the campus, established in 1942, used to be called Grant Junior College and then Grant Technical College before taking on its current name in 1955. It started making sense that the facility at ARC must've been called the Grant Bowl.

This lingering question has hounded us for the better part of 15 years and resurfaces every year prior to the Causeway Classic as we look back at the game's history. Knowing that little tidbit may not seem like much but it certainly brought satisfaction to us.

Thanks Lonnie!

Mike Robles is assistant athletics director for communications and will rest easy tonight knowing where the Grant Bowl is located. 

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