The Road Less Traveled

One look at Tustin (Calif.) linebacker Edward Tandy's film and the first word that comes to mind is: Freak. If there is one word to define the man< though -- not just the football player -- it's driven.

One look at Tustin (Calif.) linebacker Edward Tandy's film and the first word that comes to mind is: Freak. If there is one word to define the man though -- not just the football player -- it's driven.

At 6-foot, 220 pounds, Tandy has not a single ounce of bad weight on him. He doesn't eat junk food. He's as straight an arrow as you can find. Everything about Tandy -- from the way he speaks, to his deep and measured tone, to his play on the field -- belies an intense focus. And now, that focus is coming to Berkeley.

"It's a well-known school, academically, and that's the most important thing about going to college," Tandy says of why he picked California on Friday. "Being the first of my family to go to college, it's a requirement that I get a great degree, from a great college ... Just having that degree opens a lot of doors for me. I feel like the Cal degree is more powerful than any other college I could have had."

Tandy's story is an unconventional one. His parents do not live in Tustin. Before his sophomore year, then-assistant principal of Tustin – Chad Smith – realized that Tandy had potential not just on the football field, but in the classroom. He presented the Tandy's with an opportunity.

"[Smith] decided, ‘Hey, I'm going to take this kid under my wing and make it easier on him, give him more food to eat and make transportation easier, and give him more resources to succeed in the classroom.' That's what went down, basically," Tandy says. "Right now, he's not there anymore. He's at another high school, but I still live with him during the week."

The way Tandy says it, he basically has three parents. He lives with Smith during the week, and goes to his parents' house on weekends.

"It's a regular relationship, as it would be with any parents," Tandy says. "It's just that they wanted me to get to college and Chad decided to take me under his wing. I got a better opportunity. It's easier for me to progress and succeed in the classroom with him, so my parents let me stay with him and it got me here, so I have to give him credit for that."

Tandy describes Smith as a mentor. He not only gave Tandy a shot at a dream – going to college – but pushed him to become his absolute best.

"He just showed me [...] it's hard to put into words," Tandy says. "He just taught me how to become a man. Before, I never really cared to finish things. He showed me how to always finish something that you start. He pushed me through things. He gave me the type of perseverance to continue and never give up."

Tandy pauses and laughs, reflexively. He searches for the right words.

"He taught me how to become a man," Tandy continues. "It's something that any parent would do."

As Tandy speaks, he's coming home from an intense workout with Winter Wells, his defensive coordinator at Tustin, who played briefly at Idaho. Wells has been drilling and working Tandy in after-hours training so that by the time he becomes a Pac-12 WILL backer, he'll be ready.

Tandy will be coming up on his official visit on Jan. 25, after already making a visit to Cal for the Oregon game on Sept. 28. Even with that on the horizon, though, Tandy already knows what he wants to study when he gets to Berkeley.

"I was thinking about studying architecture," Tandy says. "I'm a creative person. I love designing things."

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