Regardless of whether Cal senior safety Sean Cattouse fulfills his dream of playing in the NFL, he won't have to worry about finding a job, even in this tough economy.
He already has an offer.
"If Sean was looking for a teaching position, whether I had one or not, I would make sure I made room for him," said Andrew Manno, principal at Hubbard High on Chicago's tough south side, where Cattouse played. "Sean was one of the best we've had here as a role model, solid student, great leader.
"I hope and pray Sean comes back to Hubbard one day and becomes a teacher. Even the principal."
Just a couple of classes from becoming the first member of his immediate family to graduate from college and dreaming of a shot at the NFL, Cattouse has another big item on his agenda: Returning to the inner city -- perhaps his hometown -- to teach high school, coach and impact the lives of young people.
"When I'm done with football, I know that's what I'm going to do," Cattouse said. "I'll be happy doing that."
Cattouse became Cal coach Jeff Tedford's first Chicago-area recruit thanks to former Bears assistant Mike Dunbar, who previously coached at Northwestern. Cattouse (pronounced cuh-TOOS) passed and ran for more than 2,000 yards as a senior quarterback at Hubbard in the fall of 2006, and the Cal coaching staff saw attributes that would translate to defensive back.
The Bears got more than the hard-hitting safety they were hoping for.
"The education is more than just in the classroom," Tedford said. "It's all the things off the field, and I think he's done a real fine job of that."
A social-welfare major, Cattouse made one of his projects the mentoring of an elementary-school student from East Oakland for a year and a half. He also worked with a student at McClymonds High.
Sally Cattouse began hearing tales of her son's willingness to assist others when he was in the first grade.
"His teacher would send notes home and tell me how wonderful he was with his peers, just helping them, encouraging them if they were having trouble," she said.
Sally Cattouse believes Sean matured more quickly because he was the youngest of six kids and was allowed to hang out with his older brothers and cousins.
Cal teammate Josh Hill thinks it's more basic: "That's just part of Sean," he said.
The Cattouse family lived in the Rogers Park neighborhood at the north end of Chicago when Sean started school, then moved south to Hubbard's district.
"It's yuppie tough," Hubbard coach Elton Harris said of Rogers Park. "We're the south side. We know tough."
So tough that Cattouse's coaches walked football players to the bus stop after practice to make sure they got home safely.
While Cattouse avoided the gangs, many of his friends and teammates weren't immune. When trouble erupted, Harris routinely asked Cattouse to intervene.
"Sean Cattouse to the discipline office," the intercom would announce, and Cattouse knew one of his buddies had been in a fight.
"They'd have me talk to them before they called any of their parents," Cattouse said. "They listened to me. One of my best friends got suspended three, four times every year. But whenever I was with the guys, there was never any trouble."
"I never had to worry about Sean," Harris said. "He always was a leader."
Rated the No. 12 overall prospect in Illinois by Rivals.com in 2006, Cattouse had football scholarship offers from about 20 schools, including Illinois, Purdue, Boston College and North Carolina. What he knew about Cal came from playing football video games.
"I liked their uniforms," he said.
On his recruiting trip to Berkeley, he fell in love with the Bay Area. "There's a different flow and a different demeanor here," he said.
It's been a good fit. He shared an apartment two years ago with basketball star Jerome Randle -- also a Chicago native -- and twice has been an honorable mention All-Pac-10 pick. The Sporting News made him a preseason third-team All-American this fall.
Cattouse was close enough to finishing his class work last spring that he participated in graduation ceremonies, bringing his parents, siblings and 3-year-old daughter, Nina, out from Chicago.
For now, Cattouse has more football to play, perhaps beyond this season. Ultimately, he believes it's his calling to work with young people who could benefit from his experience.
"I don't think there's anyone I couldn't get through to," he said.