NCAA

How Texas-made quarterback Davis Webb fell in love with Berkeley

How Texas-made quarterback Davis Webb fell in love with Berkeley

Texas is all Davis Webb knew for the first 21 years of his life. The 6-foot-5 NFL hopeful grew up in the Dallas area of Prosper, excelled at Prosper High School and became the second true freshman ever to start at quarterback for Texas Tech University — a five-hour drive from his hometown. Calling his transition West to Berkeley a whole new world is easily an understatement. 

"I knew it was going to be different, but I don’t think I knew how different it is compared to Dallas, Texas, or Lubbock, Texas," Webb told CSNBayArea.com in an exclusive phone interview. "It’s a complete 180 from where I spent the first 21 years of my life. 

"But at the same time, I’m in love with Berkeley."

Webb's love for Berkeley began where you might expect — on the gridiron. As soon as he arrived on campus in late May, Webb hit the field to throw with his eventual leading receiver, Chad Hansen, and other new teammates as well.

"I created a bunch of new friendships and we competed and got after it hard that summer," Webb said. "I fell in love with Cal, I fell in love with my teammates and I fell in love with the university.”

After acclimating with his new teammates and feeling more comfortable in his new home, Webb soon indulged all the Bay Area has to offer. The new guy on campus frequented the press box atop Memorial Stadium and gaze out to the Golden Gate Bridge and the arresting view before it. He attended Oakland A’s games at the Coliseum, San Francisco Giants games at AT&T Park, and Cal basketball games at Haas Pavilion.

“I love that place,” Webb said. “I love the [Berkeley] strip, I love my teammates, I love the Bay Area. I love the weather, obviously. The food was great and there’s beautiful women everywhere.”

Coming from one of the most conservative areas in the country, Webb quickly immersed himself in Berkeley's liberal landscape.

“It was a great experience and it was different," he said, "but I was prepared for it and my teammates helped me along the way.”

He made it an easy transition, but it wasn't one Webb ever expected to make. He broke Big 12 records as a true freshman at Texas Tech and ended his first season with an upset win over No. 15 Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl, earning MVP honors. His efforts on the field even helped force 2016 Heisman runner up Baker Mayfield to transfer to Oklahoma. But a torn left labrum and a subsequent ankle injury limited him to eight games as a sophomore and he eventually lost his starting job to Patrick Mahomes II (another top prospect in the 2017 draft). In Webb's junior year, head coach Kliff Kingsbury went with Mahomes, spurring Webb's transfer.

Webb initially signed financial aid papers in January 2016 to enroll in the University of Colorado, but when Cal hired Jake Spavital -- who Webb calls the best offensive coordinator in the country -- he maintained an open mind. 

And there was one specific attribute that cemented Cal as the gunslinger's final decision.  

"It’s 'QB U.' It really is," Webb professed. "It’s kinda 'Silent QB U,'" he added, rattling off a list of the school's first-round draft picks.

The decision to join Cal in 2016 put Webb at the helm of former head coach Sonny Dykes' Air Raid Offense.

“Everybody wants to hate on the Air Raid system, but it’s a fun game and without the Air Raid system I wouldn’t be where I’m at today,” Webb said.

At Texas Tech, Webb experienced the highs and lows of a college athlete on the biggest stage. After losing his job, a sour taste could have followed him to Cal. But Webb took the same approach he always has — to lead on and off the field. Webb was named a captain after just eight weeks at Cal, a goal he made coming to the school after wearing the "C" for Texas Tech.

Academically, Webb maintained just under a 4.0 GPA in Cal’s graduate public health school. Webb is taking a break from his studies to pursue an NFL career, but he understands Cal's academic prestige, and, with one third of his graduate degree complete, Webb vows to finish what he started.

“To get a Cal degree is something not many people can say and I want that degree, and I’m gonna get it” Webb said. “It’s just a matter of needing a little break right now and focusing on my football abilities. Having that public health degree, being the No. 1 public institution in the country isn’t something I take lightly.”

With most of Cal’s games coming on Saturdays, Webb knocked out as much schoolwork as possible on Sundays and Mondays and then it was all football for him, either in the facilities or on the field from 7:30 a.m. to nearly 11 p.m. every day.

“It was a great day. It was a great three months that I had there and I’m never gonna forget it,” Webb said.

Four years of college at two different schools put Webb on a long, winding road toward the draft. Through it all, Webb moves on from collegiate sports bleeding just under 10,000 yards and 83 touchdowns of Red Raider and Golden Bear blood. 

“I got everything I wanted out of Cal and then some,” says Webb. “I’m gonna call Cal my home for the rest of my life. Cal and Texas Tech are always gonna have a place in my heart. I’m just thankful Cal gave me an opportunity. I’m gonna go back there and get my degree and be around Cal as much as I can for the rest of my life.”

Three months on campus is all it took for the Texas-made quarterback to fall in love with Berkeley. With unfinished business in the classroom, he will be back in the Bay Area — perhaps for the long haul in the place he can already call home.

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Check out Part 1 of our interview with Davis Webb as he looks at the NFL Combine and how he's preparing to separate himself from the other quarterbacks in the 2017 draft class.

From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

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From feeding homeless to doing the splits, Stanford's Phillips a rare find

Stanford has a penchant for recruiting the overachieving student-athlete. Even among those standards, Harrison Phillips is a rare find. The senior defensive tackle helps feed the homeless every Friday morning at a local shelter. He often visits the kids in the oncology ward at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. He was named to the Pac-12 All Academic First Team and will graduate in December with a double major and a minor. He is a team captain and heir apparent to Solomon Thomas, the 49ers third overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.

“One thing you love about Harrison is, every day he’s going to get something done,” head coach David Shaw told NBC Sports Bay Area. “On the field, off the field, in the community, he’s always got a million things going on. But nothing ever suffers.

"He does everything at a high level.”

At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Phillips is a mountain of a man. His skill set is different than that of Thomas, but he can be just as disruptive. He plays over the center. He plays over the guards. His self-proclaimed job is to eat as many blocks as possible to keep the linebackers free.

“He’s such that hard point for us. He’s that guy up front that’s getting knock back, that force in the run game that you gotta have,” defensive coordinator Lance Anderson explained. “You have to have that strong solid point in the middle of your defense, and he provides that.”

Phillips had a game-high 11 tackles, five of them solo, in the Cardinal’s loss to USC. No other defensive lineman on the field had more than three.

“He’s outstanding against the run. He’s a very good pass rusher,” Shaw added. “He’s got a lot of tools that can work inside.”

Phillips main instruments of domination are strength, knowledge of leverage and abnormal flexibility for a man of his size.

“He can do the splits on command,” Thomas said laughing from in front of his locker after a recent 49ers practice. “He loves showing it off. We get on him for it. But he loves doing it.

And, according to Thomas, his former Stanford teammate loves to bench. So it comes as no surprise that Phillips’ upper body strength stands out.

“He’ll be really low in a position that you think he’d get knocked over in,” Thomas explained. “Because of how flexible he is, it’s not a problem for him to get in that position and stay there and move on from there. It definitely shows up on his film.”

No doubt, Phillips says, that ability comes from his wrestling experience. His high school curriculum vitae includes, “Nebraska State Wrestling Champion, Heavy Weight Division, Sophomore, Junior and Senior years.”

Phillips first year on The Farm, he vividly remembers his Stanford coaches testing him. Just a mere 245 pounds at the time, they put him up against Joshua Garnett and Andrus Peat, two offensive linemen now in the NFL and each well over 300 pounds.

“They’d double team me, almost 700 pounds on you, and I would somehow find leverage and be able to sit on some of those double teams,” Phillips said. “I think the violence that wrestling brings, and balance and being comfortable in weird positions, wrestling has a ton of scrambling, as it's called, you just know your body and know what you can do. I have tremendous flexibility, and I use everything to my advantage.”

One thing Phillips is not allowed to do is use his explosiveness away from the football field. At one time, Phillips could do a back flip off the wall, but he no longer attempts it.

“I’m not a big fan of the back hand springs,” Shaw said. “I’d like for him to stay on his feet.”

Phillips doesn’t argue. He lost his entire sophomore year to a knee injury, and doesn’t want to risk another. He has NFL aspirations and put himself in position to graduate in three-and-a-half years should he choose to enter the 2018 draft. But just as he has done at Stanford, he is looking to be more than just a name on a jersey should he play on a professional level.

“I want to build something that is really lasting,” Phillips said of his life goal, “and put my name on something to touch people’s lives and change people’s lives, pay it forward as much as I can.”

No. 6 USC routs No. 14 Stanford for 11th straight win

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USASTI

No. 6 USC routs No. 14 Stanford for 11th straight win

LOS ANGELES  — Steven Mitchell and Deontay Burnett caught two touchdown passes apiece from Sam Darnold, and No. 6 Southern California extended its winning streak to 11 games with a bruising 42-24 victory over No. 14 Stanford on Saturday night.

Darnold went 21 of 26 with 316 yards passing for the Trojans (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12), who snapped their three-game losing streak in this California private-school rivalry. USC racked up 623 total yards and won the first Pac-12 game of the new season by beating the hard-nosed Cardinal (1-1, 0-1) at their own physical game.

Ronald Jones II rushed for 116 yards and scored a touchdown in his ninth consecutive game as USC excelled at Stanford's traditional strengths, running the ball for 307 yards and controlling both lines of scrimmage. Turnovers and penalties by the Trojans kept it fairly close, but freshman Stephen Carr added 119 yards rushing, and Jones cartwheeled into the end zone with a clinching 23-yard TD run with 4:15 to play.

Keller Chryst passed for 172 yards and two touchdowns, while Bryce Love had a 75-yard TD run among his 160 yards rushing for the Cardinal, who hadn't played since their season-opening win over Rice in Australia last month.

After a scoreless third quarter, USC made a 90-yard scoring drive capped by Mitchell's second TD on a feathery 11-yard TD pass by Darnold with 9:42 to play. Stanford stayed close with J.J. Arcega-Whiteside's TD catch with 6:41 to play, but Jones' incredible second TD run capped a smooth 75-yard drive in USC's 11th consecutive win at the Coliseum.

Stanford had won eight of its last 11 meetings with USC in a dominant stretch that began with its historic 2007 upset victory at the Coliseum.

After USC scored 49 points in its season opener, Darnold's offense again was in fine form from the start. USC scored four touchdowns on five lengthy drives in the first half, with Darnold hitting Burnett for two of his three TD passes.

USC moved 74 yards on two plays late in the half to take a 28-17 lead on Burnett's leaping 25-yard TD grab.

THE TAKEAWAY

Stanford: That 62-point performance in the season opener Down Under was impossible to replicate against a top Pac-12 defense, and the Cardinal's offense will know it must add versatility to the attack. Stanford's defense also had big problems at the line of scrimmage, and that isn't a problem with which the Cardinal have much experience.

USC: This talent-laden offense has appeared to have the makings of a juggernaut so far. Darnold returned to 2016 form with a smooth, poised performance against a vaunted conference opponent, while the Trojans' receivers appear to be much more reliable than coach Clay Helton feared. USC's defense also stepped up after halftime and shut down one of the Pac-12's best.

UP NEXT

Stanford: The Cardinal's three-game stretch away from home to open the season concludes at San Diego State.

USC: The Trojans welcome Texas to the Coliseum for a meeting of two powerhouse programs.