6-3/185 Loyola (Los Angeles) High School defensive back Chris Conte was one of the first commits in Cal’s class way back in June of last year. Conte was an under the radar player that many recruiting fans weren’t yet familiar with at that stage but quickly became excited about when considering Conte’s highly valued combination of size, speed and athleticism.
Conte grew up a fan of UCLA football, however, after an enjoyable and productive experience at Cal’s summer football camp, Conte was offered and eventually accepted a scholarship to play for Cal. The situation became muddled soon after that point when UCLA quickly followed suit and made Conte an offer of their own to play for the Bruins.
Throughout the season, Conte remained committed to Cal but openly considered the Bruin’s tempting offer. However, when faced with a deadline by UCLA to either commit or lose the option of their scholarship offer, Conte decided to switch his verbal and commit to UCLA last month.
“I’d always loved Cal but when I committed to UCLA, there was a lot of stuff going on in my life and I thought it might be the better move for me at the time,” said Conte. “But the coaches stuck with me at Cal and showed their support and I just gradually came to realize that Cal was the better overall fit for me.
UCLA used the lure of potential early playing time to help convince Conte to come their way, but ultimately to no avail.
“At UCLA, it was pretty much wide open for me to play pretty early,” said Conte. “I would have really had a good shot at starting some time in my first couple years.
“Cal is definitely more crowded at my position, but I just feel that if I’m good enough to play Pac 10 football, I should be good enough to play wherever I go. There’s more competition at Cal, but hopefully I’ll be able to rise above it. If I want to go pro and fulfill my dreams in football, I’m going to have to compete with the best to get to where I want to be.”
Despite the long period of indecision, the Cal staff continued to pursue Conte with patience and consistency.
“It really made me feel good to see how much they wanted me to play at Cal,” said Conte. “It meant a lot to me. Until late, I didn’t know how important I really was to them, but the way they stuck with me really let me know how they felt.”
Conte cited Running Backs Coach Ron Gould and Defensive Backs Coach Todd Littlejohn as playing key roles in his commitment to Cal as well as Cal Head Coach Jeff Tedford.
“My parents love Coach Tedford and I think I talked to Coach Gould every day for the last two weeks,” said Conte. “No pressure or anything. He just wanted to make sure I knew how much they’d like to have me play at Cal.
“That was one of the hardest things about the idea of switching commitments. My parents and I had such a close relationship with the Cal coaches and I felt real comfortable with all of them.
“Cal’s approach was to treat me in a way that that told me that I needed to do what was best for me but UCLA had less scholarships so there was more pressure in that situation."
Many have projected Conte to play the safety position in college, but Conte will continue to play cornerback, as he did throughout high school. His height and coverage ability is coveted by the Bears to try and combat the ever-present abundance of tall receivers in the Pac 10. He’ll join Sean Cattouse and D.J. Campbell as a trio of tall, fast and abundantly athletic db’s at Cal. All excelled on both sides of the ball in high school, with Conte starring at receiver and Cattouse and Campbell excelling at quarterback in their respective programs.
Conte summarized his recruitment by crediting Tedford and his approach with his players and recruits.
“A big thing for me is how Coach Tedford treats his players and how he cares so much about not just football but about you as a person and as a student,” said Conte. “It’s important to him that you succeed in school and get good grades. If you look at how many people have been graduating at Cal and having success -that tells you all you need to know.
“He’s really turned things around at Cal. It’s exciting to know that that I’ll be playing under a coach that’s as special as Coach Tedford,” concluded Conte.
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