Back in August, I never could have envisioned that this day would come so soon. In fact, there’s so much I never would have expected. But after a football season that featured a crazy series of events and an even crazier offseason injury, it’s time to say goodbye to you, senior quarterback Josh Nunes, at least as a football player.
About 16 months ago, as Andrew Luck’s Stanford career ended with an Oklahoma State field goal, a fear of the future began to creep over me. I believed in life after Gerhart. I believed in life after Harbaugh. But I must admit, I was skeptical of life after Luck.
To complicate things, none of us—well, none of us outside the team—knew who was going to be the one to replace Luck. And as a member of the Class of 2014, I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that I was quietly pulling for my classmate Brett Nottingham.
But you wouldn’t let that happen, Josh. From everything I’ve heard in interviews and casual conversations off the field, you fought to win that job. You were in the film room studying all offseason. Your center, Sam Schwartzstein ‘12 M.A. ‘13, described you most eloquently when he said that you became not just a student, but indeed a teacher of the game by the time September came.
And because of all of that, when your head coach David Shaw named you the starter and Nottingham the backup, I wasn’t upset. I had come to believe in Josh Nunes. Sure, you weren’t going to be Luck—anyone who expected that was crazy—but you were good enough to be a winner. You had to be. You worked so hard, you’re a good guy and you were so focused; it had to work.
But sometimes football, like life, isn’t fair. The San Jose State game scared me. The Duke game, while better, still had me questioning whether things were going to work out. By halftime of USC, the press box was abuzz with the sentiment that Nottingham would be the quarterback for the start of the third quarter.
You didn’t give up though. When you didn’t have it with your arm, you somehow—and I don’t think any of us will ever know how this worked—made enough plays with your feet to keep Stanford in the game. And that wobbly pass to your classmate, tight end Zach Ertz, hit him in a good enough spot for the game-winning score.
Who were we to doubt you, Josh? That was the spark you needed. But then we were taken back to reality with the loss at Washington. You went 18-37 for 170 yards, no touchdowns, one interception. Surely that was the end; you couldn’t recover from that. But Coach Shaw didn’t agree, and you proved him right with the best game of your career against Arizona, saving the day in the dominant defense’s worst performance of the season.
Who knew that the Arizona win would be the last high moment of your career? Three weeks later, after the offense struggled against weak Cal and Washington State teams, when you didn’t score on your first two drives against Colorado, the door was finally open for someone to take your job. And sophomore Kevin Hogan did just that, with a masterful performance against an admittedly weak Buffaloes team.
And that was it. It’s amazing how fickle a football career can be. But none of us could have predicted how yours would officially end. As Antonio Gonzalez of the Associated Press reported, your career ended with your work off the field. A bench press accident causing the nastiest of upper body injuries robbed you of your last year playing football.
So now it’s time for closure, something that we really never had with the rapid, mid-game ascension of Hogan. I’m not sure what the words to say are. You’d be the first to admit that your season, and now career, did not go as well as you hoped. Too many times, the ball just didn’t get to where it had to be. But once senior running back Stepfan Taylor picked up the first down to clinch the Rose Bowl victory on New Year’s Day, who could’ve asked for this season to have gone any differently?
Anyone who claims that a Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl win wasn’t exceeding expectations for the first year of life after Luck is kidding himself. We’ll never be sure exactly what would’ve happened if you made a few more completions against Washington or Notre Dame, or if Nottingham beat you out in camp. But what we do know is that it all worked out.
So enjoy your retirement.
Sam Fisher tried to claim medical retirement from the Daily because of a sprained pinky, but came back when he realized no one would write a column marking his departure. Tell him if he made the right choice at safisher ‘at’ stanford.edu and follow him on Twitter @SamFisher908.