Cal football: Linebacker Hardy Nickerson to transfer to Illinois to play for his father

Cal’s football team lost a key defensive player Thursday when senior linebacker Hardy Nickerson announced he will graduate this summer and transfer to Illinois to play for his father, the Illini’s new defensive coordinator.

Nickerson, who led the team in tackles last season, said the decision to leave was tough but he could not pass up the chance to play for his father, Hardy Nickerson Sr., a former star at Cal who later played in the NFL.

“After much thought and numerous discussions with my parents, I have decided to graduate from Cal and pursue a post-graduate degree at the University of Illinois in the fall,” Nickerson said. “A most unique opportunity presented itself when my father joined the Illinois football staff as their new defensive coordinator just last month.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to play my final year of college football for my father and head coach Lovie Smith, and it is an opportunity that I simply cannot pass up.”

Cal coach Sonny Dykes called Nickerson’s situation “a unique opportunity” and was understanding of his decision.

“The Nickerson family is extremely tight-knit and this is something that is only happening because of their tremendous family relationship,” he said. “We hate to lose Hardy for next season but wish him, his father and their entire family the best.”

Nickerson played in 35 games with 27 starts during his final three seasons at Cal from 2013-15 after redshirting as a true freshman in 2012. He finished with 246 tackles, nine tackles for loss, two sacks and one interception.

Jeff Faraudo

  • John

    I’m torn here. I get it, he wants to play for his dad…but Hardy Sr. already coached his son in high school. And here we are now in his final year, his son is a key member of Cal’s defense, and he is essentially stealing a starting player from his alma mater.

    I’m essentially more frustrated at Sr. than Jr. This doesn’t sit well with me.

    The silver lining…maybe we can replace him with someone who can tackle.

  • R. Deschain

    Yet another example of a player who believes there is no “team” in the phrase “I want what I want, and am going to do it.”

    How do either of these people justify abandoning the team that developed both? Unbelievable. I guess the family that loses together stays together.

    Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out, Hardy Jr.

  • covinared


  • eastcoastbear

    Double loss as far I am concerned. Hiring Hardy Senior to the Cal Defensive Coaching team should have been a no brainer for Coach Dykes, when Hardy was available. Cal all time Great, NFL All Pro, NFL Coaching experience and even local HS coaching experience. What a recruiter he would have been for the Bears…As it is we face another long year hoping we can score more points than the other team….

  • BlakeStreetBear

    This transfer rule is endlessly stupid…making guys sit out a year like they used to would squash this free-agent BS and the “But I just wanna play with my brother/father…” crap.

    Or maybe coaches should just completely abandon the RS freshman thing to avoid coaching a guy for 4 years and then he bails as a 5th year starter to go play for furd or whoever. I would.

    Go Bears!

  • IT_Pro47

    The grad transfer rule is out of control. It was not meant to be like this. That said, I cannot at all blame the young man for wanting to spend time learning from his dad and one of the other top defensive minds in football in Lovie Smith. I know in his heart he’ll always been a Golden Bear.

  • IT_Pro47

    Dude, you need to reevaluate your life. I actually pity you.

  • maddogsfavsnpiks

    Wow.. reading all the sour grapes stuff below you begin to appreciate (if it wasn’t clear previously) why duh Bares are such poor losers… Let the deluge of whining and crying begin, as y’all will be lucky to win more than 3 or 4 games this coming season… waaa !

  • BlakeStreetBear

    Hey troll, can you name a single fan base that wouldn’t be a little pissed-off if their 5th-year senior starting middle linebacker decided to transfer? Didn’t think so.

    Go Bears!

  • maddogsfavsnpiks

    tough toe nails bare boi.. ohh life is sooo hard… waaa !

  • eastcoastbear

    Personally I think student atheltes should be able to transfer to the school of their choice just like any other student once they graduate. Or like anyone else working if they want to change jobs, Not sure what more they owe the NCAA or the school they attended and graduated from. We will certainy be happy if Texas Tech QB falls in our lap. Wish Hardy Jr well. His father is a distinguished alumni and I am only sad we did did bring him back to be DC for the Bears.

  • Larry

    What?! Wait, what? Hardy is leaving now? What is going on?

  • Pixilicious

    Yet another graduate with eligibility who cannot wait to get out of Dykes program. Funny thing, I can’t recall a single graduate transfer from Tedford’s program in his long tenure.

    There’s no need to ask why because the answer is pretty damned clear, and it has nothing to do with familial ties. Dykes is a cancer on the program.

  • Pixilicious

    Nickerson is the symptom, Dykes is the disease.

  • Eric

    Hey Pixi – the number 1 athlete, from Georgia, just signed with Cal, choosing Cal over virtually every major program. What’s your explanation of that?

  • eastcoastbear

    Big time recruit. Sounds like the Jaylen Brown story. Could have played anywhere and focused on the academics and other aspects of going to school at Berkeley…Might lead to one more big addition this summer Webb the Senior Transfer QB…fingers crossed

  • covinared

    Dipshit:The rule did not exist under tedford .