One week from today, No. 5 Stanford will take on No. 4 Michigan State in the 100th Rose Bowl Game. Over the next week, outspoken fifth-year seniors like inside linebacker Shayne Skov and outside linebacker Trent Murphy will be making their final appearances with the media and on the field as members of the Cardinal. As we approach the end of this era, we asked football writers Do-Hyoung Park, David Cohn and Michael Peterson: What will you miss most about this current crop of Cardinal seniors?
Do: There are a lot of people on Stanford’s campus that have been born and raised bleeding Cardinal red for their entire lives. (Joey Beyda, I’m looking at you!) I am not one of those people. Although I have always been a sports fan, Stanford football was an entirely foreign entity to me until I came to the Farm for the first time last year. And last season, I was not as deeply immersed in our football team as I was this year. Sure, I went to every game and cheered my lungs out for the Cardinal, but I didn’t follow the storylines as much and didn’t get attached to the players.
This year, it was a whole different story. I became attached to this team and followed it in all of its ups and downs while reporting on it. Because of that, this year’s graduating class is the first class that will graduate from Stanford that I have been really attached to. And the things that I will really miss about this graduating class are the personalities of the team leaders.
As a fan in the stands, there’s nothing that gets the adrenaline flowing in your veins quite like watching playmakers make huge plays and express their emotions for everybody in the stadium to see. This year’s crop of seniors especially has been known for its intense, competitive attitudes. I’m really going to miss seeing Shayne Skov stalking his prey while breathing heavily with eye black running down his face. And Ben Gardner spreading his arms out wide as if to emphasize the resounding “no” that he just delivered with a monster hit. And Trent Murphy’s quieter and more workmanlike — but no less ferocious — attitude.
Sure, I’m going to miss their production, but what I’m going to miss more about this group of seniors is the spirit and swagger that they brought to the field day in and day out. Thanks for a great four (or five) years, guys. You’ll be missed.
David: I will miss the tremendous heart that this year’s senior class consistently demonstrated during its illustrious four year-run. As members of either Stanford’s 2009 or 2010 recruiting classes, none of Stanford’s current seniors were rated as five-star recruits by ESPN’s Recruiting Nation; in fact, many of Stanford’s key senior contributors were two-star or three-star prospects. However, these seniors more than made up for any lack of national recruiting hype with their preparation, their effort and their dedication to excellence.
When I think of this year’s senior class, three plays made by members of this class stand out in my mind: Devon Carrington’s tackle of Marcus Mariota to save a touchdown during last year’s victory at Oregon, Trent Murphy’s pick-six against Washington State this season and Shayne Skov’s acrobatic dive over the entire Arizona State offensive line in this month’s Pac-12 Championship Game. In each case, Carrington, Murphy, and Skov were tenacious and relentless; they all shined by making plays that each would not normally be expected to make.
In turn, these two qualities of heart and a constant desire to exceed expectations define the mindset and approach of a champion. As such, I feel that the only way I can honor the winningest class in recent program history is to highlight these seniors as the ultimate champions, both on and off the field.
Michael: The current Cardinal seniors may be one of the most talented classes ever in Stanford football history. However, as talented as they are and as successful as they have been, nothing strikes me more about these players than the belief they have in each other and in the Stanford way, even in the face of adversity.
Twice this year, Stanford’s world was shattered. First, the Cardinal fell to Utah in a game it was expected to win. The loss seemed to seal Oregon’s control of the Pac-12 North. How did the Cardinal respond? In the face of doubt, Stanford reeled off three straight wins against top-25 opponents including the massive victory against Oregon. After the Cardinal subsequently lost to USC, all projections had the Cardinal heading to a non-BCS bowl after three straight seasons of BCS berths. How did the Cardinal respond? With a historic squashing of Cal and two wins over top-25 teams that then sent the Card back to the Rose Bowl.
Despite crushing losses, Stanford stayed focused and poised and refused to succumb to the doubts about the team that swirled throughout the media. That kind of mentality can only come from the locker room and emanate from the attitude of the Cardinal’s leadership, that of senior captains Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy, Ben Gardner, David Yankey and others.
These players have maintained a confident, calm and consistent approach that allowed Stanford to ride out a roller coaster year and return to the Rose Bowl. Even after losses, the seniors expressed confidence in the way they play and never questioned each other or the program, always having belief that they would accomplish their goals. These seniors are the definition of excellence on the field and in the locker room, and they played a big role in turning the mindset around inside the Stanford program.
Do-Hyoung Park has a thing or two to learn about a “workmanlike” attitude. Help send Do to Mesa, Ariz. for some quality time with the Murphy family by wiring funds to David and Michael at dmcohn ‘at’ stanford.edu and mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu. If you wish to write Do’s epitaph, send suggestions to dpark027 ‘at’ stanford.edu.