football Edit

Cal Football: WR Nikko Remigio Is All In

Playing as a true freshman might be a sign of success for some guys. Even starting a couple games might be worth something. Taking over as the starting punt return as a freshman would mean something.

Those guys aren't Nikko Remigio.

"I definitely had a bad taste in my mouth from last year," Remigio said, "Last year was one of the first times in my life that I had sat out a game or had not gotten put into a game because I was too young or I wasn’t there yet. I turned that frustration and that energy into getting better."

The former four star receiver from Mater Dei finished his true freshman with 11 receptions for 62 yards, along with 15 punt returns for 103 yards in nine games played. That wasn't anywhere near where he wanted to be, as he near-immediately went back to work, as he has proven in fall camp that he could be Cal's top receiving threat in 2019.

"It’s not because it just happens," offensive coordinator Beau Baldwin remembered, "this started for him in January."

"It’s like he’s been a guy possessed," strength and conditioning coach Torre Becton added, "as if (he said) ‘I saw where I needed to be in year one on the field, I saw that it wasn’t good enough.’"

Remigio is now the starter on the inside, and it's not a stretch to say he looks like a completely different player. Aside from the number change (from 25 to 4), Remigio has put on about 15 pounds of muscle. He runs crisp routes, has improved a ton as a blocker on the perimeter and is one of the best in one on one situations.

"It moreso started within myself. I’m a competitor, so any little edge I can get on my opponents," Remigio said, "I’m going to capitalize on it. That started with the offseason workouts, the weight room, conditioning. I think transitioning from there and really just going in fully, diving in and putting everything I’ve got into those workouts, it transitioned into fall camp.

In order to make the needed leap, Remigio went back to what earned him a scholarship offer from Cal.

Back during signing day in December of 2017, Justin Wilcox noted that Remigio caught their attention at a camp, jumping to the front of the line to take as many one on one reps as he could. By the end of the day, he had a scholarship and a week after that, he was committed. Now he's back, stealing as many reps as he can during practice.

"I have to shut him down in one on ones" wide receivers coach Burl Toler said, "because I’ll say however many reps I want him to get in in a day, he’ll say ‘are you sure, can I get one more?’ That’s the kind of kid he is, it’s an honor to coach him and have him in the meeting room."

It's the problem coaches always love to have, as Remigio is a guy that needs to be told to hold back, as opposed to the other way around.

"He didn’t have any fear in the weight room," Becton noted, "I put a cap on him doing barbell lunges, he was doing up to 275, and I just stopped him, I didn’t want to see him doing any more, he was pushing it, redlining it. The biggest thing is he had no fear, he attacked everything, he jumped on it, there was a lot of determination out of that kid this summer."

That determination has shown in the wide receiver room. It's a young room, with Jordan Duncan as the only senior. Because of that, Remigio has taken a leadership role, something that has stood out to his teammates.

"He’s definitely taken a bigger role from last year, where he was coming in and playing right away, it’s a big deal," redshirt sophomore WR Ricky Walker noted."Being able to play with him, he’s another leader out there, taking charge, he’s really smart, he’s really good with his hands, really good with his technique, and I love playing with him. It compliments the outside when you’ve got somebody like that inside."

"I always forget, I think Nikko’s older," Toler noted. "It’s only his second year, it’s a combination of things, Duncan being the only senior, who does a great job, but understanding that he needs a supporting cast in maturity. (Nikko)’s the one that steps up and makes sure people are in line, makes sure people take care of business."

Cal's going to use the true sophomore in plenty of ways, much like he was used at Mater Dei. He can be a vertical threat, but his strengths in offseason conditioning, per Bector, were the change of direction and acceleration days, and he'll continue to return punts.

"He’s just a true football player, he’s not just a receiver, some guys have a bit of that ‘extra,’ he’s got some of that running back skillset," Baldwin said, "you see it on punt returns, so when you send in that early motion, there’s a lot of different things (he can do). You can get eyes on him, you can do something off of that motion to get guys open. You can get eyes on him and give him, you can get eyes, throw it late to the flats. There’s just a lot he can do that the defense has to aware of, has to be leery of, and he gets going full speed before the snap, and then has the ability after."

A game against UC Davis is his chance to prove that some of the gains he's made are for real. He made his debut against Idaho State last year, nearly returning a punt for a score. He'll have to prove that he's made the jump, but the prevailing view is that he's put in the blood, sweat, and tears to be the reason for Cal's offensive improvement.

"He opened himself up to the idea of being great and once he did that," Becton said, "it became easy on my end, the strength and conditioning staff’s end. The kid was looking for more, he was looking for harder, he was looking to pay up at the end, pay up the cost."

Now he's paid the cost, and has the opportunity ahead of him.

"It’s all about the opportunities," Remigio said, "now that the opportunities are being given, it’s all about making the plays, and I think I lost touch with it last season, getting back into it feels really good and it’s just exciting to see where we’re at this season with those opportunities being given."