Tragedy to triumph -- Cal's Mike Tepper


Tragedy to triumph -- Cal's Mike Tepper

Kelly Suckow

Not many athletes can say they have been run down by a car. Mike Tepper can.

The former Cal offensive lineman and current Indianapolis Colt had his life changed forever June 26, 2005.

While walking home in the early hours of the morning with a former Cal volleyball player, Tepper encountered a car full of men making lewd comments at his female friend. After trying to avoid the car, the two found themselves directly in its pathway.

True to his offensive lineman training, Tepper's instinct was to protect those around him. The Cypress, California native used his six-foot-six-inch, 330-pound frame to push his friend out of harms way.

Tepper was not so lucky.

The front end of the car hit him, and his leg caught in its wheel well. After being dragged nearly 30 feet under the moving vehicle, Tepper managed to cling to a metal grid in the road and wrench himself from the cars underbelly.

Once free from the car, Tepper looked up, only to see the car heading towards him yet again. With his life flashing before his eyes, the 19-year-old braced for the second blow that came moments later.

A block away, an undercover Berkeley police officer called for assistance and took off in pursuit of the fleeing vehicle. The driver, John Ray Smith, was apprehended and returned to prison after being out on parole. Three individuals were charged, but it is the driver who is now serving life in prison as a third-strike offender.

People called Tepper a hero, but heroisms double-edged blade hit him hard. After four breaks to his lower leg, a shattered fibula and a torn shoulder muscle, doctors told Tepper he would never walk again, much less play football. His life took a downward spiral -- post-traumatic stress disorder, his parents divorce and depression hung a dark cloud over his next six months.

"Those six months," Tepper classified, "were the closest thing to a living Hell that I could have ever got to."

The lowest of the low came while sitting on the edge of Cal's Memorial Stadium one day. Feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders, there were brief moments when he thought how easy it would be to put an end to it right there.

A dream of playing in the National Football League provided the incentive to approach life with a newly-fortified constitution. Tepper withdrew from school and began seeing a psychiatrist. Slowly, the weight that spurred suicidal thoughts began to lift, becoming instead, a source of strength for Tepper.

The left tackle rebounded in 2006, competing in all 13 of the Bears' contests. In 2007, he started all 13 games at right tackle.

A pectoral injury put him on the bench in 2008, but Tepper topped his Cal career off as a first-team All-Pac 10 selection thanks to a sixth year of eligibility granted from the NCAA.

In April of 2010, he signed as an undrafted free agent with the Dallas Cowboys, only to be cut the day before the 53-man roster was finalized. No stranger to adversity, Tepper was prepared for his three-game stint with the UFL Sacramento Mountain Lions, and took it as an opportunity to keep his hands -- and eyes -- on the ball.

In January 2011, he signed a contract with the Colts. True to his story, last year's lockout denied Tepper from joining his team and forced him to remain in California, unsure of the next move.

With no obligations and sparse options, the 25-year-old packed his bags and moved to Colorado on a whim to become a certified rafting guide at Glenwood Adventure Company. Paddling down the raging rivers, squats with a boat trailer and daily runs up the trails in the area provided ample opportunities for him to stay in game shape.

When the lockout was lifted, Tepper was more than ready to move east for the Colts training camp. He survived the gauntlet of cuts and earned his first career start against the Titans on Oct. 30, 2011.

He finally made it.

Two major injuries, six collegiate seasons, two NFL teams, a lockout and a summer as a raft guide are only the bullet notes in Tepper's extraordinary story.

The scars that snake around his lower right leg remind him of how close he was to losing it all, and allow him to measure just how far he has come since that fateful night.

The best part is, his story is still being written. Life may have forced a few fumbles, but you havent seen the best of Mike Tepper yet.

"They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger," Tepper relayed with a knowing smile, "and that is definitely an aspect of my life that I can look back on, that made me a stronger individual."
Kelly Suckow is an intern with She is a former staff writer for the Daily Californian and is studying psychology in her senior year at Cal. Follow her on Twitter @KellyJSuckow.

Memory of the late Bob Murphy will live on the heads of those who heard him


Memory of the late Bob Murphy will live on the heads of those who heard him

Bob Murphy, who was the voice of Stanford athletics when such titles truly mattered in the Bay Area, died Tuesday after a long fight with Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 86.

Murphy was viscerally connected to the university in ways that were once in vogue across the nation but are now reserved only to the Midwest and Southeast. He was a walking ambassador for the school’s athletic history, a familiar face to the army of alums who linked to his voice and presence early and ultimately grew old with him, even when coaches and players and athletic directors came and went with unsettling frequency.

And while his time as the alternate face to Hoover Tower eventually faded, he was still Murph – to be honored and respected by all generations, even the ones who never heard him or saw him. If anyone below the age of 25 asked about him, he was spoken of with the reverence reserved for architectural structures or hundred-year-old trees. He belonged to the place, and the place belonged to him.

He mattered at Stanford, because Stanford is an insular community, watching the world outside with a palpable sense of “Thank God we’re safe in here.” He attended the school, he worked as its sports information director, and he was the radio voice who fought for Stanford when only a few people were listening. He had proven his devotion decades ago, until his devotion became part of the background noise and scenery.

And he didn’t even leave after he became ill, and then absent. Only the most successful coaches and athletes get to attain that omnipresent aura in college athletics, and in truth, Murphy reached more people in the community than any coach or player the school has ever had, simply by being at the place, and of the place, longer and more happily than anyone.

Sometime soon, we suspect, he will be remembered with a statue, either near the football stadium or near Maples Pavilion. He will be bronzed, wearing a polo shirt with the S-with-the-interlocking-tree and glasses wedged against the bridge of his nose. He will be seated, with a desk before him and microphone perched atop it, and there will be a plaque with a Wikipedia-ized list of his contributions.

But without the voice, it will be incomplete. That will have to be recreated inside the heads of those who heard it most often, and cared most what words it carried. It is there where Bob Murphy’s memory will thrive – as someone who defined Stanford in ways that no marketing campaign ever could.

David Shaw is quietly the second-best coach in the Bay Area


David Shaw is quietly the second-best coach in the Bay Area

Steve Kerr has been the standard by which all other coaches have been measured in these parts since he arrived in Oakland – rescued as it was from the nine hells of the New York Knickerbockers. He is indeed so good that he is still getting credit for the 50 wins he actually didn’t fully merit – the 39 that belong to Luke Walton and the 11 that are Mike Brown’s.

But this is not to slag Kerr’s record – which even if you eliminate the 55 games he hasn’t coached in his three years because of his back issue is still the best in NBA history – but to remind you that David Shaw still exists, he still is supervising the golden age of Stanford football, and he is just as unavailable to pro teams as he ever was.

Shaw, whose team opens its season on Saturday night in Australia against Rice, has been beneath the radar since the day he arrived, for no better reasons than (a) the Bay Area doesn’t hold much stock in college football and (b) he likes it that way. His excellence is indisputable, but he is also in the perfect place to do his job without any of the irritants that surround most college coaches – media, embittered alumni, NCAA investigators, the late night call from the cops about your outside linebacker overturning a minivan, that kind of thing.

He has worn down all attempts to question him on his next job because, while he could get one at the snap of a finger, he was not infected with the standard coach’s ambition to see and be seen. He has seen the sport’s many excesses and has decided to ward off the ones that directly touch him.

He still believes in the game’s virtues, and can probably be considered a fairly doctrinaire figure on most issues confronting the sport and its practitioners, but does not have to pretend that he is too focused on the job to be interested in mundane things like eclipses, political turmoil, social justice and all the other noxious things that happen outside the cocoon.

But be not fooled. He likes the cocoon that is Stanford, and he has the sense to understand that the chance of a better job existing is almost infinitesimal. He may someday want something more public and lucrative, but until money and fame get a long winning streak going at his house, he’ll sit quietly, the second-best coach in the Bay Area and the first-best at making you not remember that he is just that.