A Letter to Kevin Hogan from a Stanford Fan

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Dear Kevin,

On January 2, 2012, in the waning moments of the Fiesta Bowl, Andrew Luck played his final snap in a Cardinal uniform. As the field goal sailed wide left, Stanford fans turned their collective attention to two things:

  1. Rage (!)
  2. Prognosticating about who would be the heir-apparent to Luck’s proverbial throne.

As a three-year starter, Luck won 31 games, amassed 9430 passing yards, and accounted for 89 touchdowns. Awards? Yeah, he’s got ‘em. He won the Walter Camp Player of the Year and the Maxwell Award, and also earned two trips to New York for the Heisman ceremony. Most importantly, he played a pivotal role in the rebuilding of a program in shambles.

At many intervals, but none greater than those moments following the Fiesta bowl, filling the enormous void left by Luck felt like trying to stitch together the Grand Canyon with a pack of band-aids. Who will replace the one, the only, the truly incomparable: Andrew Luck? And more importantly, who can?

In the spring of 2012, I distinctly remember being at an open practice, possibly before the spring game. Typically, I enjoy watching all of the position groups, but that day I was zeroed-in on the quarterbacks. Like everyone else, I wanted a sneak preview of Stanford’s future offensive leader.

It came down to two-ish guys: Brett Nottingham and Josh Nunes, and possibly a sleeper-cell younger guy. In the previous year, Nottingham had seen the most action as backup, and it was almost a foregone conclusion that he would get the nod. After standing for a few minutes to watch the talent, my husband tapped me on the shoulder and pointed, “That guy. Kevin Hogan will be our starter.”

In that moment, we both knew that you would be named starting quarterback in the days preceding opening day.

Wrong.

To everyone’s surprise, Josh Nunes earned the job.

For a minute.

It didn’t take long for Stanford to become frustrated with Nunes. The new regime (and fan base) was used to scoring, and Nunes was the most Alex-Smith-quarterback ever not named Alex Smith.

As it turns out, who can and will replace Andrew Luck are totally different things.

In Colorado, the Changing of the Guard we all knew was coming finally came, and you Kevin Hogan became the starting quarterback.

Kevin Who? Kevin Huh? We’d seen flashes of you: the guy who can pass [really well] and run [really well]. You reminded me of… dare I say it… an Andrew Luck?

Kevin, my dear boy. Can I call you Kevin? You became the guy that I always knew you would become. You’re a once-in-a-lifetime type of talent, a rare find, a true gem. You are everything Stanford so desperately needed after Andrew Luck.

Kevin, you did what Luck never could: you won a PAC-12 championship and led the Cardinal to a Rose Bowl. Oh yeah, and then that other one. And then one more. You accounted for 9261 yards, 72 touchdowns, and saved an entire generation from Ron Dayne flashbacks on your way to getting the most wins by any quarterback in Stanford history. This includes Andrew Luck, the guy we all thought would be so hard to replace. You did that and so much more.

And now I’d like to get more personal. I really hate it when sports teams talk about overcoming adversity. It’s trite. It’s annoying. Since when did “adversity” become synonymous for one guy on your team ripping an ACL, the offensive coordinator leaving for the USC head coaching job, or some other guy being suspended for some sort of teenager-y infraction.

That isn’t adversity.

Adversity is when someone you love and look up to has an illness and you have to deal with it in silence.

Your father was diagnosed with cancer right before you left for college. Your whole world came crashing down, and you bore that burden on your own because that’s what your dad wanted. And also, you didn’t want to your team to be distracted, or worse: feel sorry for you.

Kevin, in retrospect, the fact that you were able to stand up, let alone play football, last year was the equivalent of scaling Everest without wearing shoes. The fact that you were able to lead your team out of the locker room, let alone on the football field, makes me pause to recognize your strength and resolve. Your entire family is so proud of you Kevin, but no one is more proud than your dad.

I hope that you know that.

You’ll point to the sky after touchdowns every day for the rest of your life, and I’ll remember your incredible dad each time I see it. He is so proud; we are so proud.

You’ve been the starting quarterback for four years now, and now is the time for you to fly the nest. You replaced the irreplaceable and now you seem irreplaceable.

You elevated Stanford to a level that most didn’t think they would see, and now the question remains: who will replace Kevin Hogan? Kevin Hogan — the winningest quarterback in Stanford history, the one who led Stanford to three Rose Bowl games. Most importantly: who can replace Kevin Hogan?

Thank you for everything you have done.

With much appreciation and gratitude,

Jill Whisnant, on behalf of Nerd Nation