BERKELEY -- As family and friends said one last goodbye to Cal football player Ted Agu at a memorial service at Haas Pavilion on Monday night, Bears coach Sonny Dykes told a story that summed up his feelings about the 21-year-old.
It was the day after a loss at Washington during the Bears' rough 2013 season, and the first-year coach was working at Memorial Stadium when he noticed Agu pacing just outside his office door.
Agu came in, closed the door and sat down. "Coach, I just want you to know I've got your back," Agu told him.
For Dykes, the tiny gesture was powerful.
"He was always looking out for other people," Dykes told the audience of about 200. "Ted was much more than a football player. Ted was about service."
A junior defensive end, Agu died Feb. 7 after a routine team training run. The cause of death has not been determined, pending the outcome of an autopsy.
This was the third memorial event for Agu. Football teammates and his Omega Psi Phi fraternity brothers organized a candlelight service that drew more than 1,000 mourners to the Goldman Plaza outside Memorial Stadium on Feb. 12.
The team also attended a memorial service in Agu's hometown of Bakersfield last Friday.
Monday's event, attended by a dozen of Agu's family members from the central valley and Nigeria, featured stories by those on campus who knew him best.
Agu, who dreamed of becoming a doctor, was known to teammates as "Pre-Med Ted," although defensive lineman Austin Clark said Agu had more nicknames than anyone he knows.
Nick McNeil of Cal's athletic study center, who hired Agu for two summers to work as a peer adviser to other athletes, said Agu was "spectacular in his role as mentor, role model and friend. His passion for learning, passion for living will not be forgotten."
Certainly not by Cal athlete Maggie Simpson, who once served as Agu's peer counselor and later became a close friend.
Two days before Agu died, he called Simpson to tell her he had a late Christmas gift for her. She was busy and postponed their meeting until Saturday of that week.
"Saturday came without Ted, and I realized I could never put anything in front of the people I love," she said.
Football teammate Brennan Scarlett said Agu's devotion to going the extra mile in his studies and his football training was a valuable example. "I don't have any excuses for that kind of stuff anymore because of Ted," Scarlett said.
Dykes recalled asking around the football office last spring about deserving candidates among the walk-on players to be put on scholarship.
"Ted's name came up every single time," he said. When Dykes announced the news at a team meeting, "I've never seen so much excitement, so much love. Our guys were jumping up and down celebrating."
Cal athletics announced the establishment of the Ted Agu Memorial Scholarship Fund to serve as an endowment for scholarship support to student-athletes. Contributions can be made online at CalBears.com/tedaguscholarship.