“You said they’re smart; they’re also mean and nasty.” Chris Fowler, ESPN Analyst
Stanford? Yes! He’s talking about the football team of The Leland Stanford Junior University in Palo Alto? Yes! In my lifetime, I never expected this. ESPN covering my Cardinal and describing the Nerd Nation team as “mean and nasty.” Boy, do we like it. On January 1st, the team from The Farm took over Pasadena and won their first Rose Bowl in over 40 years. Summoning up the will and drive, that same defensive unit sealed the tough, gritty win with an interception by Usua Amanam at the 2:03 mark. At that point, all the team would need to grab the trophy would be one first down courtesy of Stepfan Taylor, the running back who carried the offense on his strong legs throughout the season. Senior Linebacker Shayne Skov and Junior Tight End Zach Ertz (both Management Science and Engineering students) stood tall and made sure that the younger players maintained their never-say-die attitude. The team started strong with two quick touchdowns only to brought to a grinding halt through the 3rd quarter when neither team scored. In the 4th quarter, the Cardinal had two extended drives, one which ended in an important field goal to extend the lead to six, where it would end with a winning score of 20-14.
The team set the Rose Bowl goal at the beginning of the year when most pundits placed them somewhere around mid-level following the graduation of that incredible Andrew Luck. Of course most thought that Coach David Shaw‘s 2012 success was exclusively the result of good Luck. Not so fast said the stoic, deliberate D-Shaw – and he’s still not finished. The chip on his should sits there, visible and almost anchoring the talented coach to his you-will-respect-us game plan.
“To be honest, we’re still on the ascent. We can still play so much better and that’s our charge now,” said Coach Shaw. When asked how he would handle this win, the coach was true to his vision, “To take this victory, celebrate it [and] get ready to buck up and play better next year.”
That certainly doesn’t sound like a coach who believes that he’s arrived at the top of the mountain. No, Coach Shaw has a long-term vision for Stanford and will continue to recruit incredible students to take advantage of the full experience that the university offers. On Taylor’s twitter account, he lists his major and student status before his position on the football team – I credit Coach Shaw with making certain that the young men understand the order of importance.
In spite of Coach Shaw’s insistence that the team doesn’t garner the sports fan’s respect, I know that young, smart boys across the country are taking note of Stanford. Did I ever think that my high school friend Heather’s son Brennan would aspire to be a Cardinal, choosing to wear his Stanford jersey to school? Nah! Didn’t see this coming five or six years ago. Thankfully, the coach has signed a long-term deal which means he’ll be on The Farm in the next three years when Brennan graduates high school. He’ll need to continue work hard because the Rhodes Scholars are still first on the home page.
That’s down the line. For the next few months, the Cardinal/Nerd Nation will revel in its status as Rose Bowl Champion. Winning the granddaddy of all bowls is a really great way to start the year. Gooooo! Stanford!