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FILE -- The NFL success of former Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers, pictured with his former coach Jeff Tedford, is a great recruiting tool for Cal. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Unveiling conceivably his most impressive recruiting class in nine years at Cal, Jeff Tedford on Wednesday made a point of thanking the members of his coaching staff for their labor and diligence.

Meanwhile, in his heart, the coach surely extended an extra-special thanks to the NFL.

For as hard as Tedford and his staff may have worked, for the many hours they have invested, their reward Wednesday was no more the result of their direct efforts than those of his unofficial recruiters -- former Golden Bears now earning paychecks in America's most popular sports enterprise.

He can thank Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who was lighting up the postseason as Tedford and his staff were making their final pitches on behalf of Cal.

He can thank Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, who at the same time was the star of the most spectacular run of this and perhaps any other postseason.

Tedford also can thank DeSean Jackson, the Eagles wideout and kick returner, whose game-winning punt return against the New York Giants is a YouTube hit and a staple of any video featuring the 2010 season.

Without such unpaid ambassadors, anyone being recruited by the Bears could have been tempted to dismiss Cal in 2011 as a program burdened by a losing season, undergoing significant coaching turnover and being forced to play its 2011 games in a baseball park a dozen miles from campus.


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With them, though, Tedford could be at a news conference with a look of serenity, barely containing his enthusiasm for the 22 newest Golden Bears, a consensus top-20 group.

"No question it helps," he conceded. "I think it's big, especially with the timing of the playoffs coming as we were trying to nail down our recruits. To have as many guys representing Cal as there were, it's one more thing we can point to and be proud of."

Like most coaches at the BCS level, Tedford is innately familiar with the mind-set of those being recruited. Entering a living room to visit with a recruit and his parents, he has several goals. Above all, though, he wants a commitment from a young athlete who can help his program win games.

The blue-chip recruit also has several goals, too, primary among them identifying the coach and the school most likely to help him achieve his dream. Teenagers who are star prep athletes -- that's all of them at this level -- have one eye on their immediate path, another occupied with visualizing that pot of green at the end.

Their young, naive minds might even be obsessed with it.

"Their priorities are education, facilities, weather and NFL -- and not necessarily in that order," Tedford said.

As for the accomplishments at a college/university, that tends to be a secondary thought for any student-athlete not reared in the South, where college football is neither game nor sport but a regional fixation.

Here on the left coast, in the Pac-10, college football is more likely to be perceived as a layover, a training ground, a place to play and live and have fun before getting paid.

Tedford and his staff are wise enough to recognize this ambition, and they are able to point to their record. Not their record in recent Pac-10 standings but the record that counts to a recruit, that of discovering talent, cultivating skill and developing NFL playmakers.

And Cal under Tedford has become a factory in that regard. The Golden Bears in 2010 had 33 players listed on NFL rosters. By comparison, USC had 43, Notre Dame 28, Alabama 27 and Stanford 16.

Moreover, in the years since Rodgers was drafted 24th overall in 2005, the NFL has mined Berkeley for four more first-round picks: defensive tackle Tyson Alualu and running back Jahvid Best in 2010, center Alex Mack in '09 and Lynch in '07. Jackson somehow lasted until the second round in 2008.

Recruits watch NFL games, paying particular attention to those who play the same positions or simply jump off the screen with their play. And those recruits who don't know the history will learn it.

"Those guys are going out and making impact plays," Tedford said. "Marshawn's run (against New Orleans) was the best of the playoffs. I think everybody has seen DeSean's punt return. And Aaron, he's been on fire."

All three wear the Cal badge and reached the playoffs, putting them in the minds of impressionable recruits. Rodgers will be joined in Super Bowl XLV by ex-Bears linebacker Desmond Bishop, now a Green Bay teammate.

Tedford most assuredly is proud of those he has sent to the NFL. He's pleased, too, with his 2011 recruiting class. He likely wouldn't have the latter without the former.

Contact Monte Poole at mpoole@bayareanewsgroup.com.