All Grown Up, But Still Close to the Heart

By Matt Kawahara, Daily Cal Contributing Writer
This story was originally published in the Daily Californian on Saturday, November 3, 2007. Click here for original version.

Reprinted by permission.

It's Halloween night, and an icy fog is drifting down through Strawberry Canyon and settling over an eerily calm Memorial Stadium.Practice is over. Most of the Cal football team is gone for the night, save for Justin Moye, deeply involved in a photo shoot with his mom on the 50-yard-line.

First comes the traditional side-by-side shot. Then the linebacker effortlessly picks his mother up and smiles.

Then, Mary Sue Moye puts on her son's helmet and crouches, poised to deliver a crushing blow as he stands in the position of an unsuspecting quarterback.

It's a showcase of the bond between a mom and her kid, on a field that the son calls home and the mother knows well.

Mary Sue and her husband, Jeff Moye, introduced the tradition of Cal football to a younger Justin, who spent the time before games playing football with friends on the islands of Piedmont Avenue.

'We used to tell them, gosh you know someday maybe you guys are going to be playing here at Cal,' says Mary Sue. 'And they'd say `Yeah we're going to play here.' Who would've guessed that it would actually come to fruition?'

Mary Sue saw her husband start for Cal's Pac-8 championship team of 1975. She has tailgated at the same spot--a fraternity on Piedmont Avenue and Channing Way--for the past 25 years.

And now, she watches the Bears on Saturday to see her son prowl the field as an outside linebacker.

'It's such a thrill for me as a mom,' she says. 'It's a different feeling, I think, with your son because you realize just how special it is. All these years, how much (Jeff) appreciated it, Justin will probably be appreciating all those same things for years to come.'

The worry in Carrie De La Puente's voice is palpable as she talks about the possibility of seeing her son, Brian, go down during a game.

Offensive guard Brian De La Puente has been playing football since his freshman year of high school, and in those nine seasons it hasn't become any easier for Carrie to watch.

'I worry about him getting hurt,' she says. 'I think, through a mom's eyes, he just doesn't look that big to me. I still think of him as a little boy.'

De La Puente, for the record, is listed at 6-foot-4 and 302 pounds.

But that apprehension is a common link among moms on the team.

We as students and fans catch a glimpse of these athletes for four or five years, at a time and in an arena where they seem larger than life.

Moms see the same boys that they have known for their sons' entire lives, and a protective instinct is only natural, especially when those young men are going heads every week with the best college football players in the country.

'The line moms really stick together, which is fun,' De La Puente says. 'They feel the same way I do. Every play that (the offensive linemen) are on the field, they get hit. Sometimes the wide receivers don't get hit. Sometimes Nate doesn't get hit. The linemen get hit every time.'

But it's not all bad. Not even the worrying can mask the pride of watching her son perform on the national stage.

'Oh my God, I couldn't be prouder. It brings both my husband and I, every game, every time they run through that tunnel ...'

She pauses.

'It's really wonderful as parents to watch that.'

It's a good thing Jahvid Best is fast. Otherwise, his mom might go entire games without exhaling.

The freshman phenom began playing football just four years ago, and Lisa Best is still a little uncomfortable with it.

'I close my eyes a lot of times,' she says. 'I just say, `Did he get the ball? Is he running yet?' Then I feel comfortable when I see him taking off.'

That breathtaking breakaway speed has Jahvid fitting in just fine in his first year in Strawberry Canyon. As is often the case, finding a niche was a tougher challenge for the freshman's parents.

'(Best's) parents, when they first came, were like, `Oh my gosh, where do I go?'' says Mary Sue Moye.

Now, the Bests are a fixture among a league of dedicated parents.

'We come out very early before the game,' says Lisa Best. 'We come and tailgate with all the Bearents.'

Bearents are exactly what they sound like--parents of Cal players who meet up before and after games to tailgate and unite in support for their sons.

'It's fantastic, yeah,' says Carrie De La Puente. 'We came in when Brian was a freshman and we didn't know anybody. We didn't tailgate or anything. Now all of us have been together for five years.'

The network provides a way for the parents to meet each other and interact on game days. Many families have their own tailgates before home games, so the Bearents are strongest on the road.

'The away games you feel like you're just kind of on your own,' says Moye, a cofounder of the Bearents. 'So to have this network where you can meet up with other parents and be part of the festivities is really special.'

While Lisa Best has another three years to watch her son compete at Cal, Mary Sue Moye and Carrie De La Puente, mothers of seniors, will soon have that experience for the last time.

'You know, against USC is their senior night,' says De La Puente. 'We get to go down on the field with them, and, you know, five years is a long time to be somewhere. They've all grown into these wonderful men.'

The parents approach this end with bittersweet sentiment, after immersing themselves completely in the world of Cal football for the past five years.

'You live and die by it, week to week,' says Moye.

Often times, we as students think that we do, too.

We feel proud of these athletes, revere them as ultra-talented representatives of our school.

But our loyalties rise and fall throughout the season, as we cheer for the team as a single entity more than we single out the individual player. And when a senior graduates, regardless of his dedication or accomplishments, it's easy for us to find consolation in his replacement.

Not so for a mother.

To a mom, that athlete will always be a proud reflection of his family. Those years spent in support of him, on and off the field, will always live in memory.

That young man will always be her son.

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