The Stanford Football Renaissance

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There’s no denying that Stanford Football has gone through somewhat of a renaissance in the past six years. The program is decidedly more successful, and the players are bigger, stronger, and more competitive (while still upholding Stanford’s stringent admission standards). How did Stanford Football go from Screech Powers to Zack Morris? The answer lies in these five individuals:

Owen Marecic, Fullback/Linebacker: 2007 – 2010

Marecic’s claims to fame include starting on offense and defense his senior season, earning the adoration of notorious curmudgeon Jim Harbaugh, finishing tenth in the Heisman voting in 2010, winning the inaugural Paul Hornung award, and that one time he scored offensive and defensive touchdowns in the span of 13 seconds.

Owen Marecic’s mental and physical toughness represents the cornerstone of the new Stanford football — the one that routinely goes to bowl games and doesn’t lose 11 games a year.

Shayne Skov, Linebacker: 2009 – 2013

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a major defensive player in a list of people who turned around the Stanford program. After all, much of Stanford’s success in recent history is due to the ridiculous defense that people have come to expect from this team.

I once heard that Shayne Skov was the first Stanford recruit to fax in his letter of intent in 2009. It seems that his heart, enthusiasm, and leadership were present from the word “Go.”

Shayne is disruptive on the football field (in the absolute best sense of the word). If you haven’t seen him fly across the line of scrimmage in the 2013 PAC-12 title game, then you haven’t lived life. You should probably go and watch that video right now.

Don’t worry. I’ll wait.

Shayne has the heart of a lion, an intensity that is unmatched by anything not named Jim Harbaugh, and the tenacity of some otherworldly badger. He wills his team to win even when he’s on the sidelines, as he was in 2011 after sustaining a nasty knee injury. There isn’t much more you can ask from a guy.

Toby Gerhart, Running Back: 2006 – 2009

Toby Gerhart was basically a superhuman wrecking ball incapable of feeling any pain. He smashed through Stanford (and some Pac-12) rushing and scoring records like they were feeble defensive lines. Most career touchdowns? Most career 100-yard rushing games? Two-hundred yard rushing games? Most rushing yards in a season? In a game? Most touchdowns in a season? Most points scored in a season? He broke them all… and many more. Gerhart literally and figuratively put the team on his back and ran them to their first bowl game in eight years.

Toby rushed for 3,522 yards during his Stanford career, which is made all the more impressive when you learn that all but about 500 yards came in his final two years. He was a Doak Walker Award winner, PAC-10 player of the year, and finished second in the 2009 Heisman vote, along with being selected in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft.

I don’t know where Stanford came up with their slogan: Home of Intellectual Brutality, but I think it had to have been inspired by Toby Gerhart. He was the valedictorian of his graduating class, scored 30 on the NFL Wonderlic test (highest among running backs at that time), and if you’ve ever seen his hands after a game, you know that they look like they’ve been gnawed on by a family of wolverines. Also, his full name is Tobinbo Gunnar Gerhart, so there’s that.

Jim Harbaugh, Head Coach: 2007 – 2010

Jim Harbaugh came to Stanford after spending two years at the University of San Diego, and he became the change agent for the new brand of Stanford Football. No longer would this team represent the nerds bullied by cooler, better looking guys. Instead, he developed an offensive line that took pride in their blue-collar jobs, recruited a slew of underrated athletes, and motivated the lot of them in [cruel and sometimes] unusual ways. He also hired some of the best coaching talent in football. Like Mary Poppins, Harbaugh only stayed until the wind changed. However, he left the program in far better shape than he found it, and paved the way for the program we all see today.

Andrew Luck, Quarterback: 2009 – 2011

Stanford has been fortunate to have some insanely talented quarterbacks, so to stand out among the likes of Jim Plunkett and John Elway is a seemingly insurmountable task.

Enter Andrew Luck.

Luck turned down offers from Northwestern, Oklahoma State, and others to play for the Cardinal, who had gone 4-8 the previous year. This was quite a leap of faith for even the brightest scholar-athlete. I feel like they should make a movie about how Jim Harbaugh convinced Luck to come to Stanford.

In Luck’s three years at starting quarterback, he amassed 9,430 total passing yards, nearly 1,000 rushing yards, and scored 89 touchdowns. He was a two-time PAC-10/12 offensive player of the year, Maxwell Award winner, two-time Heisman runner-up, and number one overall pick in the 2012 draft. I think it’s safe to say that Andrew Luck is the most talented and valuable player in Stanford football history. Luck has a ridiculous natural talent for the game of football. He is poised, classy, humble, and insanely competitive. These are the same qualities that the new age Stanford Football regime is trying to instill.

So, what do you think? Who were/are the major players in the Stanford football renaissance? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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