Cal’s athletics history is headlined by a long list of star performers, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, point guard Jason Kidd and Olympic swimmer Natalie Coughlin.
The list of elite multi-sport athletes is shorter, but no less impressive.
In the age of specialization, athletes such as current football/baseball player Brandon McIlwain are increasingly rare.
But we found some great ones who have competed in Berkeley dating back more than a century. We rank a dozen of the best here:
1. JACKIE JENSEN (Football/Baseball)
The clear choice for No. 1 on our list, Jensen was Cal’s first 1,000-yard rusher, played in both the Rose Bowl and the College World Series and went on to earn 1958 American League MVP honors while playing in the Boston Red Sox outfield alongside Ted Williams. Jensen was a first-team All-America running back in 1948 on his way to rushing for 1,703 yards in his Hall of Fame college career. The Oakland native was twice a baseball All-American and pitched Cal to one of its wins in its run to the 1947 College World Series title over Yale and future President George Bush. He rose to the top in the major leagues in ’58 when he hit 35 home runs and drove in an AL-best 122 runs.
2. BRICK MULLER (Football/Track and Field)
A two-time football All-American, Muller was the centerpiece of coach Andy Smith’s “Wonder Teams,” which posted a record of 27-0-1 from 1920 through ’22 and outscored those 28 opponents by an average score of 44-3. In the Rose Bowl following the 1920 season, Muller threw a touchdown pass that traveled more than 50 yards in the air as the Bears stunned heavily favored Ohio State 28-0 to put West Coast football on the map. A college football Hall of Famer, Muller also was a track and field star, earning a silver medal in the high jump at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics with a clearance of 6 feet, 2 3/4 inches.
3. TONY GONZALEZ (Football/Basketball)
The most prolific tight end in NFL history, a 10-time All-Pro and a 2019 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Gonzalez excelled in two sports at Cal. He was named a first-team All-American by Football News and Sporting News after his junior season at Cal in 1996 when he had 44 receptions for 699 yards and five touchdowns. Gonzalez enjoyed his finest moment on the hardwood in the 1997 NCAA tournament, when he scored 23 points against Villanova to help Cal advance to the Sweet 16. As a 17-year pro, he caught 1,325 passes (still the second-most all-time by any player) for 15,127 yards and 111 touchdowns, most by an NFL tight end in all three categories.
4. STEVE BARTKOWSKI (Football/Baseball)
An All-American in both sports, Bartkowski is best known as a quarterback who led the nation in passing with 2,580 yards in 1974, just missing a trip to the Rose Bowl. The NFL’s No. 1 overall draft pick, he played 12 professional seasons, passing for more than 24,000 yards with 156 touchdowns. Bartkowski played first base for the Cal baseball team and was named an All-American in 1973 when he led the team with a .329 batting average.
5. ORVAL OVERALL (Baseball/Football)
Overall was at his best on the big stage, starring for the Bears in three Big Games and later for the Chicago Cubs in the World Series. He was a four-year starter at guard for the football team, blocking a kick for a safety in a 2-0 win over Stanford in the 1901 Big Game, then kicking field goals to spark a win in 1902 and a tie a year later. A two-time 20-game winner in the majors, Overall was 3-0 with an 0.99 earned run average in the Cubs’ 2007 and ’08 World Series triumphs — just the fourth and fifth Fall Classics ever contested. The Cubs didn’t win another Series for 108 years.
6. EARL ROBINSON (Baseball/Basketball)
Robinson batted .385 as an outfielder in 1956, then moved to shortstop, where he earned All-America honors in 1957 after batting .352 while leading the Bears to their second baseball national championship. A guard on Pete Newell’s basketball teams, Robinson earned All-Coast honors in 1957 and ’58, was team captain as a senior and helped Cal win Pacific Coast Conference titles both seasons. He later played four major league seasons.
7. WESLEY WALKER (Football/Track & Field)
Cal’s first four-year, two-sport athlete since World War II, Walker is one of the fastest Bears ever. A deep-threat wide receiver, he set an NCAA record for highest average gain per catch for a career at 24.7 yards. He played 13 seasons with the New York Jets, during which he caught 71 TD passes, scoring once on every 6.2 receptions over his career. On the track, Walker was a three-time All-American, helping Cal relay teams to top-five finishes at the 1975 and ’76 NCAA meets. He was the anchor leg on the 1975 4x100-meter relay that still holds Cal’s school record.
8. SAM CHAPMAN (Football/Baseball)
A consensus first-team All-American fullback on the Bears’ undefeated 1937 team, Chapman helped Cal’s “Thunder Team” to a 13-0 conquest of Alabama that season for its most recent Rose Bowl victory. Ninth in the 1937 Heisman Trophy voting, Chapman even had a pass interception in the Rose Bowl. Chosen by Washington in the third round of the 1938 NFL draft, Chapman instead opted for a professional baseball career. He played 11 major league seasons in a career interrupted by World War II, batting .266 with 180 career home runs.
9. GEORGE DIXON (Basketball/Rugby)
Dixon led the Bears basketball team to unbeaten seasons in both 1926 (14-0) and ’27 (17-0). Cal won Pacific Coast Conference titles both seasons, while Dixon was voted the league’s top guard and twice earned honorable mention All-America honors. Previously, he won an Olympic gold medal in rugby as part of the U.S. team that beat France at the 1924 Paris Games.
10. GARY HEIN (Rugby/Football)
A four-time All-American in rugby, Hein won the Woodley Award as the top collegiate rugby player in 1987 and 88. He led Cal to national collegiate titles in the sport in 1985, ’86 and ’88, and was a member of the U.S. national team from 1986 through ’94. Hein also started two years at cornerback for the Cal football team, collecting eight career interceptions and earning honorable mention All-Pac-10 honors as a senior.
11. CHUCK HANGER (Track & Field/Basketball)
Hanger was the Pacific Coast Conference high jump champion in 1948 and set a school record of 6-foot-7 1/4 that stood for 14 years. He was ranked No. 6 in the world in 1947 and helped Cal to a fifth-place finish at the ’48 NCAA championships. On the basketball court, Hanger twice led the Bears in scoring, including a school-record 14.5 points per game in 1948 when he was named first-team All-PCC Southern Division. Later, he delivered the commencement address to 8,000 fellow graduates at Memorial Stadium.
12. VALERIE McCLAIN (Men’s & Women’s Crew)
A rare athlete who competed for both a men’s and women’s team, McClain served as coxswain for the men’s crew in 1979 and for the Cal women’s teams in 1978, ’81 and ’82. She coxed the men to an undefeated collegiate season and Pac-10 title, becoming the first woman to earn a Big C letter in a men’s sport. By helping the team to a second-place finish at the Grand Challenge Cup at Henley, England, she was the first woman to race in the event. McClain was part of two Olympic women’s squads, finishing fourth in the fours event at the 1984 Games.
Jack Clark (Rugby/Football)
Taylor Douthit (Baseball/Basketball)
Bob Herwig (Football/Basketball)
Tom Keogh (Baseball/Football)
Grover Klemmer (Track & Field/Football/Basketball)
Harry Liversedge (Track & Field/Football)
Charles Lucchesi (Gymnastics/Diving)
Mick Luckhurst (Football/Rugby)
O.C. “Cort” Majors (Football/Track & Field/Basketball)
Brick Morse (Track & Field/Football/Baseball)
Irving Phillips (Football/Track & Field)
John & Rupe Ricksen (Tennis/Basketball)
Peter Schnugg (Water polo/Swimming)
Perry Schwartz (Football/Tennis)
Warren “Locomotive” Smith (Football/Baseball/Track & Field)
Pesky Sprott (Track & Field/Football)
Carl Van Heuit (Football/Rugby)
Mike White (Football/Rugby/Track & Field)
Ken Wiedemann (Football/Baseball)
Arleigh Williams (Football/Baseball)
Jack Yerman (Track & Field/Football)