Sacramento State defensive end Darnell Sankey said he had to make a big maturity adjustment from high school to college as a freshman last season.
The graduate of Branham High School in San Jose said he was homesick and insecure after joining the Hornets as a late-summer scholarship recruit.
But he credits former teammate and fellow defensive lineman John Bloomfield, who died Oct. 21 of last year, for getting him through the first several weeks of training camp.
"I remember one day I was angry after practice because one of the older guys was getting on me," Sankey said. "John saw me and said, 'Darnell, what are your goals?' I told him I wanted to be a good football player, to hopefully go to the NFL, but that it's really hard."
"The first thing he says is, 'Why can't you? You can do anything you stick your mind to.' Having someone other than my family encourage me like that, believe in me, really helped me."
Bloomfield, an aspiring preacher, became ill during the 2012 season opener at New Mexico State and died after spending nearly a month in a coma because of a deteriorating respiratory problem. He was 23.
"He was an amazing person," said Sankey, who earlier this season was named a Big Sky Conference and Football Championship Subdivision National Defensive Player of the Week. "He was so (spiritual). He gave off a great vibe."
Sac State coach Marshall Sperbeck gets chills thinking about the former Grant High and Sierra College player's passing. He said it's hard to believe the one-year anniversary of Bloomfield's death is Monday.
"It brings back a lot of memories, good and bad," Sperbeck said. "John was a very positive leader on our team. He was such a genuine, upbeat person. He really enjoyed life. He really enjoyed being a Hornet."
Many players who visited Bloomfield in the hospital and are still on the team wear green rubber wristbands that say "Forever Family" and/or T-shirts with his name and number during warmups to honor his memory.
Wright will start Although Randy Wright struggled with two interceptions and four sacks in a 42-7 homecoming loss to Montana on Saturday, the senior quarterback continues to climb UC Davis' career passing charts and has earned at least one more start.
In passing for 126 yards against the Grizzlies, Wright moved ahead of UC Davis offensive coordinator Kevin Daft into third place in career passing yards with 7,672. Daft had 7,601 yards from 1995-98.
Wright is ranked eighth for career passing yards among active FCS players. He also is second in pass attempts with 1,134 (21 shy of No. 1), third in completions with 652 (18 shy of No. 2) and fifth in touchdown passes with 47 (three away from tying for No. 3).
The Santa Rosa native started 33 of 34 games through the season opener before being benched in favor of transfer Jimmy Laughrea.
Wright relieved Laughrea early in the Big Sky Conference opener against Idaho State, leading the Aggies to a 30-13 win over the Bengals their first victory of the season then started against Southern Utah and Montana.
UC Davis coach Ron Gould said Wright will start Saturday at Northern Colorado.
"We're going to stay with Randy," Gould said during Wednesday's Big Sky coaches' teleconference. "We struggled all around against a very good Montana. I will start with him and go from there."
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.