On a cart.
Not the shoulders of 70,000 screaming fans, not in a sea of blue and gold, not on a bed of roses.
No, Saturday night, the Bears faithful saw electric junior tailback Jahvid Best exit Memorial Stadium, likely for the final time, on a cart.
The preseason Heisman hopeful sustained a frightening concussion midway through the second quarter of Cal's 31-14 loss to Oregon State on Saturday after being hurled into the air during a touchdown dive, before landing on the back of his head in the end zone.
Best briefly lost consciousness following a fall of more than five feet, Cal head coach Jeff Tedford told the Associated Press, and was carted off the field 13 minutes later wearing an oxygen mask to the nervous applause of 56,496 onlookers.
Best was brought to nearby Highland Hospital in Oakland and preliminary reports showed the Vallejo native had movement in all of his extremities.
With concussions in straight weeks, my guess is Best won't be back in a Bears uniform this season.
And with freak injuries in consecutive years, the Pac-10's best pro prospect at tailback will in all likelihood test the NFL's waters before a third costs him millions of dollars and a career at the next level.
Assuming Best has in fact played his final down as a Bear, he should go down as Cal's best ever.
In just under two seasons as a starting tailback, Best has set all-time Cal records for yards in a game (311), yards per carry for a career (7.4), rushing touchdowns in a season (15) and a game (5).
His 29 career rushing touchdowns put him third all-time behind Cal legends Russell White (35) and Chuck Muncie (32), a pair he would've likely passed assuming he avoided a dislocated elbow that cost him a game in 2008, and Saturday's potential college career-ending concussion—which could cost him the final four of 2009, including a likely bowl game. Best has averaged 1.22 touchdowns per game over the past two seasons, his only two as a starter.
In less than two full seasons, Best has re-written the Bears' record books, despite an offense poorly balanced by quarterbacks Kevin Riley and Nate Longshore. One can only imagine what Best could've done with Aaron Rodgers behind center, keeping defenses honest and the Bears with a complementary passing attack.
Still, the Cal back has continued his assault on Cal's most hallowed records despite it all, picking off the Bears' best of this decade (Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, and J.J. Arrington) and of those past (Muncie, White, and Paul Jones).
Saturday's somber scene shouldn't sour Best's brilliant career.
Contact Grant Marek at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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