"When it came down to it I was thinking of playing another year, and then when Tennessee started talking to me and I thought about leaving," said Moncrease. "Then Cal jumped on me and I had to jump to it."
After suffering a broken leg and forced to redshirt in 2007, the last thing on Moncrease's mind was receiving offers after his freshman campaign, especially from the Pac-10 Conference.
"I wasn't expecting it," he said of making it to the Pac-10. "I had confidence if I do my two years at Laney, and do the best I can, something will come to me. Everything just happened so fast. I aimed for the Pac-10 but I didn't know it was coming this fast."
Moncrease signed his National Letter of Intent to California on June 16. He will report to Berkeley on July 5 as part of the 2009 class. Originally, Cal had him pegged as a 2010 offer. Moncrease says the Bears offered him in early May, and he verbally committed within a few weeks.
"Actually, they were talking to me if I stayed another year Laney," he said about his initial conversations with the Cal coaches. "They ended up having another scholarship available; it was like ‘we want you now'. I just jumped on the opportunity. It was the best thing for me to go to California.
"I like it better like this because I think if I stayed another year I would've had a lot more offers and it would have been a harder decision to make. I like how I transitioned from El Cerrito [High School] to Laney. And how I was looked at, at Laney, rather than being at El Cerrito playing receiver. I think I made a good switch to my position because that is what a lot of [schools] were looking at me at."
Moncrease is primarily a free safety, but in conversations with the Golden Bear coaches, he's learned there is no strong or free position just left and right. He can play either spot. He is big enough to play in the box, but he can use his 4.4 speed to cover the fastest receivers in space. He says it doesn't matter which position he plays. He is still absorbing the fact he will be in the Pac-10 since he was lightly recruited coming out of high school.
"I was in class when [Washington State] offered," Moncrease said of his first offer. The Cougars offered him as part of the 2009 class.
"I was pretty shocked," he said. "In high school, I had a [verbal] offer from Fordham but they took it away and gave it to somebody else. So, it caught me off guard hearing those words ‘we have an offer for you.' I was just excited."
The Tennessee offer came next, and that is the one that made Moncrease realize he was fast becoming a legitimate prospect. The Volunteer offer wasn't as surprising as his first only because he knew UT had scholarships available.
"I had seen on College Football Live that they had 11 scholarships, so I thought they are probably going to fill those spots with just some [random] players," said Moncrease. "When they came to the school and wanted to watch me workout, I kind of expected them to offer me, but I didn't expect them to offer me on the spot."
Despite participating at camps in high school as a receiver, he still was a fierce hitter back then. One of his big hits was even featured on a local sports show. "I was hitting back then," he added. "I just wasn't hitting as much. I played defense, it wasn't like I was mainly a receiver. I had a hit on High School Sports Focus; it was one of their biggest hits."
His ability to lay the wood led many of his former teammates and coaches to nickname him after USC All-American free safety Taylor Mays. "They compare me to him at Laney," he said. "They always call me ‘Baby Mays.'".
He even admits to being a huge Mays fan. "I was a SC fan. I'm like a Tyler Mays fan."
Moncrease could have played another year of junior college ball, and Mays could have left early for the NFL Draft. But neither followed their respected path. Instead, Moncrease will get the opportunity to face Mays head-to-head on October 3 when Cal hosts the Trojans in Memorial Stadium. He couldn't be more thrilled for the matchup.
"I looked [at the schedule] and I was like, Taylor Mays is still playing, I'm about to go against this dude," said Moncrease. "It's crazy.
"If I see him, I might talk trash to him throughout the whole game but at the end of the game, I'm going to ask for his autograph. That's my idol. But I really can't look up to him any more because he graduated high school the year before me. And we're playing in the Pac-10; it's weird to be a fan of someone you're playing against."
The USC fanfare is also no longer an issue. Moncrease says Cal was a natural choice. One he feels great about making despite not being a Golden Bear fan.
"Being in the Bay Area, it was a nice gravitational pull," said Moncrease. "My mom, she loves Cal. I have a lot of friends and family that love Cal. I don't really consider myself a Cal fan, but I am now. Just being in the Pac-10 is a blessing. I'm thrilled. The best thing I can do is love Cal."
Moncrease is working out on his own with his track coaches and former coaches at Laney this offseason. He is hitting the weight room anticipating a grueling camp. Moreover, he is modest about the upcoming season.
"Whatever I can get is good for me," Moncrease said of earning a starting spot or playing mostly special teams. "I'm not a person that comes in expecting I'm going to start, you know, and do all these great things. I rather work my way toward it first, and let the seniors do their thing. But I am going to come in, compete and work as hard as I can, and if they have me on special teams, I'm fine with that."
He will have three years to play three. He plans to major in African American Studies or Economics.
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