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Cal Football: Farewell Emotions Motivate Seniors to `End on a Really Good Note'

Twenty-eight seniors could be playing for the last time tonight against USC.

Early this week, when asked about what he was feeling in the approach to his final Cal football game tonight against USC, Valentino Daltoso admitted there was a swirl of emotions and he hadn’t quite sorted them all out.

“It’s bitter-sweet,” he says in the video above. “I’m excited for the next step, but at the same time you kind of look back and reminisce on just everything you’ve done.”

For Daltoso what he’s done in five seasons at Cal includes playing at least 10 games each at four different offensive line positions. But his college journey became in 2016 as a walk-on at Oregon, and last week he was reminded of that when he ran into Mark Helfrich before the game at UCLA.

Helfrich is a broadcaster for Fox Sports these days but was head coach at Oregon when Daltoso arrived.

“We had a really good conversation and that was a point for me where it kind of it . . . Man, I’ve been doing this thing a long time. And it’s kind of coming to an end. It was a weird feeling,” he said.

“Just trying to have a lot of fun this week. Go out and play really hard and get a win. End on a really good note.”

Coach Justin Wilcox, above, wants that happy ending for all 28 of the seniors the Bears will recognize in ceremonies before tonight’s 8 p.m. (gasp!) kickoff at Memorial Stadium.

Neither the Bears nor the Trojans — with identical records of 4-7 overall and 3-5 in the Pac-12 — will play again this season, so Wilcox hopes this game is one to remember for his guys.

Asked to remark on those seniors, Wilcox said, “We’re going to be here a long time. I’d like to sit and talk about them because these guys are just top-notch human beings. I’m going to miss ‘em.”

Some of those being honored tonight — quarterback Chase Garbers, running back Christopher Brooks, wide receiver Nikko Remigio, outside linebacker Kuony Deng — have the option of using the extra year the NCAA has granted athletes because of COVID-19.

Those players and others could opt to return, although none has made his decision public.

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For others, including Daltoso, fifth-year safety Elijah Hicks, sixth-year outside linebacker Cameron Goode and seventh-year defensive lineman Luc Bequette, tonight is the final chapter.

“I’m going to be a big Elijah Hicks fan forever,” Wilcox said. “I could go down the list . . . They’re not perfect, on or off the field, but they’re genuine good people, they’re getting a great degree, they’ve competed very hard for our team, they’ve built a very strong locker room culture.

“I couldn’t be more proud of that group even though we’ve had some ups and downs.”

Hicks, in the video above, said he planned to soak in all that comes with this week, and even embrace the feelings of nostalgia. But he’s ready for the end and a chance to play in the NFL.

“For me, it’s time. It’s time to move on,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve got a lot of my old teammates, Cam Bynum, Jaylinn Hawkins and Ashtyn Davis, they’re al at the next level so it’l be cool to move on, too.

“I definitely appreciate and love my time here at Cal.”

Wilcox understands how tough this week is for players. He knows some of them will be playing the final football game of their career, most of the after a decade of suiting up.

“It is a big thing, and it’s not lost on anybody,” he says in the video below. “It is an emotional time and it deserves that.”

Cover photo of Elijah Hicks by Kyle Terada, USA Today

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo