When Fresno State players shout "Bulldog born, Bulldog bred" at the end of practice, perhaps no one means it -- and has lived it -- more than senior Shawn Plummer.
The family's ties to the university date to the early 1970s, when father Pat starred on the offensive line. His mother, Micki Horn, was an Olympic-caliber volleyball star for the Bulldogs.
A former walk-on in his sixth year in the program, Shawn Plummer is finally making a significant impact of his own through two games of the 2012 season.
With Plummer as a primary playmaker, the Bulldogs have shown signs of shoring up a defense that's been horrendous for much of the prior four seasons.
"This program, it's been in my blood," Plummer said. "I've always loved Fresno State. My parents always loved Fresno State. My dad's had season tickets since 1980, so I grew up watching them.
"I've always wanted to contribute to make the Bulldogs better."
Fresno State is 14th in the nation with seven sacks and has forced four turnovers. By comparison, the Bulldogs had 22 sacks and created just nine turnovers in 13 games last season.
In fact, Fresno State has ranked among the four worst teams in the nation in turnovers gained each year since 2006, with 15 the most it has forced in a season in that stretch.
Players such as Plummer have taken a liking to the new 3-4 base defense, playing with a reckless abandonment. He is one of three Bulldogs to record a sack and force a fumble.
Plummer has 10 total tackles, including six last week in a 42-25 loss to No. 4 Oregon.
"The biggest thing he brings is a work ethic and a toughness that we can pattern our defense after," said defensive coordinator Nick Toth, part of rookie head coach Tim DeRuyter's first staff. "Every player on the defense can pattern his daily work habits and his toughness on the field.
"He's got great short-area quickness. He's very explosive, very powerful. You add those all together and that's a very good linebacker."
In particular, the new defensive scheme has allowed Plummer to better utilize his speed on blitzes off the edge and bring pressure on the quarterback. When he has lined up opposite a tight end, Plummer has kept opposing offenses guessing whether he was blitzing or dropping back in coverage.
Plummer is the Bulldogs' fastest linebacker.
"This scheme," he said, "allows a lot of us to be the athletes and playmakers we were recruited to be."
Plummer was not recruited by four-year colleges after starring as a 160-pound safety at Clovis High. He used his first year in the Bulldogs program to bulk up. When finally allowed to practice after that "grayshirt" year, it took just one session for Plummer to be switched to linebacker.
His speed helped him get playing time as a freshman and he went from walk-on to be a sophomore starter. He earned a scholarship one game into the 2009 season.
In addition, Plummer's football upbringing gave him a strong understanding of the game. His father was the longtime coach at Hoover High.
Plummer is playing with a sense of urgency, knowing this is his final season. His love for the game was strengthened after missing all of last season after hip and abdominal surgeries.
"If the coaches are telling you to slow down or you're being too aggressive, then you're doing something right, and that's how I always try to carry myself out there," Plummer said. "That's what I always shoot for. I just love this game."
Plus, Plummer said, he has a desire to give back to the program he's always loved and to the only school that gave him a chance.
"Even if I wasn't on scholarship, I wouldn't have a problem with that," Plummer said. "I've just always wanted to be a part of Fresno State."
Bring on the Buffs
FRESNO STATE VS. COLORADO
Vitals: 5 p.m. Saturday at Bulldog Stadium
Records: Bulldogs 1-1; Buffaloes 0-2
TV: CBS Sports Network. CBS Sports Network is available in Fresno on Comcast (Ch. 418/732 HD), AT&T U-Verse (Ch.643/1643 HD), DirecTV (Ch. 613) and Dish (Ch. 158)
Radio: KMJ (AM 580); KGST (AM 1600)