Cal fans are fortunate because I made a big mistake the first time I sat down in Jeff Tedford’s office. I could tell right away that he was something special and was going to make it big.

I told Jeff, “I’ve been here long before you came and I will be here long after you go.”

I was wrong.

That’s good for Cal fans because you have a wonderful coach and a man who could get you to the very top of the mountain without sacrificing the ideals you hold so dear. I knew the NFL would come calling, and unlike Steve Mariucci, he turned them down.

Myself, I have decided to go after some new challenges after 26 years. Today is my last day at the Times.

It’s been a great and wonderful ride and I will forever be thankful to Cal fans for their enthusiam and pure joy. Other programs have fans in greater numbers, but I have found none that rival the Cal fans in terms of showing their pride and insisting on honor in the pursuit of success.

I have had far too many wonderful times covering Cal sports to list them all. I always will remember Kyle Boller’s final big game where the crowd carried him off the field. He had been through so much adversity and was presented a day that will live in his, and my, memory forever.

There were so many other special moments, too many to mention.

I still remember covering Keith Gilbertson, a wonderful man who wore his heart on his sleeve. In Gilby’s world, you were either for him or against him. I can’t begin to tell you how many times he cussed at me. It was a time when I was usually the only reporter at practice. But we developed a friendship that I think was strained a bit when Gilby lost his job. As a reporter, I had to do my job, and it was tough. Years later, when he landed the head job at Washington, he shook my hand and told me he wasn’t so thin skinned anymore.

Steve Mariucci came through and was gone in a heartbeat. He went to the gold and got it.

Tom Holmoe was next and it boggles my mind that some of the fans were so cruel to him. Ultimately, Tom failed as a head coach in terms of wins or losses. But he could coach my son anytime. When I wrote the story about Tom getting the head job, I asked his wife to describe him. She said, “He is the best man I know.” If someone asked me about Tom now, I would say, “He is the best man I know.” I will leave it at that.

Jeff took over and Cal took off. He is a special man, driven, a perfectionist. Believe me, Cal fans could grumble all they want last year when Cal slumped a bit late in the season. Nobody felt worse than coach Tedford. He will get it done, all the way, if he gets the chance. Fans are so fickle at times, and that can be tough on a man. But I think he is going to stay the course in Berkeley.

As far as the athletes, wow. What a great group of young men. From guys like quarterback D’Andre Farr, who never realized his dream of playing and yet stayed and got a scholarship, to Sekou Sanyika, to Brian Wethers, to Nick Harris, to Ryan O’Callaghan, to …

And a special thank you to all the other special people. The assistants who give so much of their time to young men without the fanfare or pay that drives head coaches. To guys like Bud Turner, who actually has blue in his veins. He is a wonderful man and in some ways I worry about him because if Cal does go to the Rose Bowl, he probably will drop dead the next day.

I’ve had great times here, and I have gone through some tough times personally where the Cal family was very good to me. It’s been a joy to meet people such as David Ortega, Greg and Susie Overholtzer, Adam Duritz and Muhammad Muqtar, who can best be summed up by the word Honor.

And a final special thanks to all the other beat writers, who made this job seem like a game to me. I still remember the old road trips, having a great dinner with writers such as Jeff Faraudo, Ron Bergman, Sam Chi, Bruce Adams and Jake Curtis, and all the time wondering what the heck they had in their story the next day that I might not have written. It was a special time.

So to all, thank you. My personal email is ht9j@aol.com so feel free to drop me a note.