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Remembering Ron Rivera's Cal connections

Ron Rivera has had plenty of reasons to smile throughout his football career. George Gojkovich/Getty Images

Super Bowl 50 is a homecoming for Panthers Head Coach Ron Rivera. Rivera was a member of the California Golden Bears from 1980 to 1983 and is from Northern California. Now, he gets to coach in his first Super Bowl just 45 miles from Cal’s Memorial Stadium.

Cal in the NFL and the Super Bowl

The Elias Sports Bureau notes that Rivera is one of 214 Cal players to play in the NFL and 41 to appear in a Super Bowl at least once. Those 41 also include the Broncos’ C.J. Anderson, who will be appearing in his second Super Bowl. Rivera is one of 22 Golden Bears to win a Super Bowl as a player. Anderson will be bidding to be number 23.

Cal alums as head coaches

Only four NFL head coaches have attended Cal. None has coached in the Super Bowl - until Rivera does on Sunday, when he and Gary Kubiak will be the sixth and seventh men to appear in the Super Bowl as a player and as a head coach, joining Mike Ditka, Tony Dungy, Forrest Gregg, Dan Reeves and Sam Wyche.

Earlier this season, Rivera surpassed Jim Hanifan as the winningest head coach to come from Cal. He has 47 wins in 80 games as Panthers head coach, eight more than Hanifan had in 93 games as an NFL head coach.

In the record books

Rivera didn’t just spend four years at Cal. He made his mark on the team's record books.

Rivera left Berkeley after the 1983 season holding the career records for tackles, sacks and tackles for a loss, as well as the single-season records for tackles and sacks. He still holds the record for most tackles for a loss in a season. His current ranks are noted in the chart on the right.

In the spring of 1984, the Chicago Bears took Rivera 44th overall in the NFL Draft. He’s the second-highest linebacker ever taken from Cal. The highest was taken four years later -- Ken Harvey was picked 12th overall by the Cardinals in 1988.

Another Golden Bear in His Corner: Richard Rodgers Sr.

One other Golden Bear connection? Richard Rodgers Sr., the Panthers’ assistant defensive backs coach. Rodgers and Rivera were captains together on the 1981 and 1983 Cal squads. Rodgers called “The Play” in the huddle to defeat Stanford in 1982, and was the second and fourth player to handle the ball. And his son (Richard) caught the Aaron Rodgers Hail Mary pass earlier this season against the Lions for a Golden Bear Rodgers to Golden Bear Rodgers game-winning play.

Trying to stay over .500

Rivera's teams are a combined 15-14-1 (.517 win pct) in the Bay Area all-time. That includes the 1980-83 Golden Bears’ home games and road games at Stanford (13-11-1), the 1984 to 1992 Bears games in San Francisco (1-3) and the Panthers’ lone San Francisco trip since he’s been head coach (1-0).