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Fisher: Saying goodbye to two special student-athletes

It gets harder every single year.

The end of the school year means it’s time to say goodbye to another class of Stanford student-athletes.

It’s hard to believe that this moment has come up again so quickly; last year’s graduation just doesn’t seem that long ago.

2012 was a brutal graduation for Stanford Athletics. Quarterback Andrew Luck, offensive lineman David DeCastro, women’s basketball forward Nneka Ogwumike and leftfielder Stephen Piscotty all left the Farm as first-round draft picks in their respective sports.

Though football survived the loss of Luck and DeCastro to win the Pac-12 and the Rose Bowl Game, baseball and women’s basketball struggled without its departed stars.

But I’m not here to just talk about the stars — or success on the field for that matter. For me, the toughest part of graduation isn’t the fear of how teams will fare next season, it’s the pain of saying goodbye to another group of both friends and awesome people to cover for The Daily.

I could make wide-sweeping generalizations here to cover everyone in both categories, but that’ll just get boring. Instead, I want to focus on two people who I will miss the most when they’re not back on campus in the fall: women’s basketball’s Joslyn Tinkle and football’s Sam Schwartzstein.

Joslyn is one of the most fun people I’ve ever been around. From the moment I started going to women’s basketball games as a freshman to support my dormmate, junior forward Chiney Ogwumike, I’ve been a fan.

Last year, I had the honor of spending the entire season with the women’s basketball team as its radio broadcaster. With just a few exceptions, I went to every game, which meant many weekends spent in some random Pac-12 city with just the team around me.

And that’s when I really got to know Joslyn, on and off the court. The thing that impressed me most about her is how positive and energetic she always was. The basketball season is a grind — November to April is a long time — and there are many ups and downs. But somehow, no matter where we were, Joslyn always seemed so happy. When I got on the bus to start a trip, she would always shout my name. Joslyn made me feel welcome, and I’m going to miss her.

Sam and I became friends in one of the craziest ways. At Stern Dining my freshman year, Sam sat with a group of football players, including Luck, DeCastro and Owen Marecic, across from me. I couldn’t help but notice they all seemed to be looking at me and laughing, which was pretty intimidating for a freshman in their company. As I stood up to leave, Sam walked over and asked, “Is your name Sam? We were all joking that you looked like me and were acting like me, and then Owen was like, ‘I know that guy. His name is Sam too.’”

Believe it or not, even with that corny of a start, we became friends. Spending time with Sam and DeCastro was hilarious — and not just because of Sam’s jokes. I had always felt like one of the bigger kids, but they were enormous; seeing a picture of the three of us together made me feel tiny for the first time in my life.

Then, this past year, I got to cover Sam’s fifth-year senior season. Without DeCastro or Luck around, Sam captained Stanford football to a Pac-12 title and a Rose Bowl Game win — he was quick to remind both DeCastro and Luck that they had never achieved either — and I got to be there for all of it.

The one moment that captured it best came after Stanford won the Pac-12 Championship. For our postgame interview on the field, I knew Sam had to be the guest. And as the drizzle turned into rain at the end of our interview, Sam put his arms around my co-host’s and my shoulders. He was a champion, and he shared that with us.

I’m going to miss those two when they leave here after graduation. It’s crazy to think that our three years together are already gone, and even scarier to think that one year from now, I’ll have to say goodbye to everyone when my graduation cap flies into the air at Stanford Stadium.

Hopefully there will be a few more celebrations — and even more great moments with friends like Sam and Joslyn — before the cap hits the ground.

Sam Schwartzstein has never told Sam Fisher why he, Luck, Marecic and DeCastro were actually laughing at him. Tell Sam (Fisher) the truth at safisher “at” stanford.edu and follow him on Twitter at @SamFisher908.

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