BERKELEY -- Justin Forsett runs the ball with a wide-eyed urgency that reminds many of Barry Sanders at his frantic finest, yet No. 3 Cal's top tailback has a patient perspective when he's out of pads.
When Notre Dame pulled its scholarship offer to Forsett out of high school, he didn't panic. He spent the next three years waiting to get to the front of Cal's uninterrupted line of 1,000-yard rushers, but Forsett didn't jump ship or rock the boat.
Forsett was patiently committed to Cal -- and his wait has been spectacularly rewarded this season, when he became the offensive heart of the highest-ranked Golden Bears (5-0, 2-0 Pac-10) in 55 years.
"Being a running back at Cal, your dream is to be the starter, and I'm finally getting that opportunity," Forsett said. "Now I feel a responsibility. I'm responsible now for the running game, so it's my responsibility to be productive, to be consistent and to lead the guys. I take it seriously."
The compact tailback's teammates call him "Tex" for his home state and laconic, cowboy demeanor. There's nothing laid-back about his play: Forsett is eighth in the nation with 585 yards and has scored nine touchdowns -- at least one in every game -- with tenacity, steady leadership and a remarkable knack for getting Cal's toughest yards in difficult times.
Forsett did it in the opener against Tennessee, rushing for 156 yards in the Bears' redemptive win. He did more against Louisiana Tech, returning to the game late to finish with 152 yards and three touchdowns that visibly reminded his young teammates about every snap's importance.
And he did it again in Cal's 31-24 win at Oregon last weekend, rushing for 101 gritty yards and scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including the decisive points with 3:11 to play.
"I haven't had many guys who do their jobs as well as Justin, whatever that job may be," coach Jeff Tedford said. "He's been a huge part of every year he's been here, even when he wasn't the featured guy. There's never been any concern about Justin being in an every-down role. He's a great player, just a real smart, competitive kid."
Forsett is finally getting the attention that goes with the starting job, but his teammates claim he's too grounded in team play to really exploit it. After all, he even claims to love blocking more than carrying the ball.
"Tex makes everything we do better," right guard Noris Malele said. "We feed off his strength, everybody on this football team."