By Joseph Beyda
Usua Amanam, Defensive Back
Alter ego: “Job well done.” The meaning of Amanam’s last name was a topic of discussion after his four-tackle-for-loss performance in his nickelback debut against San Jose State to start the 2012 season. He has lived up to the name both on the field and in the classroom, where the energy resources engineering major is known as one of the Cardinal’s most dedicated students. (Usua’s first name is just as telling: “One that despises evil things.”)
CBSSports.com projection: n/a
Cardinal career: A local product from San Jose’s Bellarmine College Prep, Amanam redshirted as a freshman before becoming the fifth prong in the Cardinal’s running back by committee in 2010. At the end of that year he made the transition to cornerback, and after a year as a backup, he switched once more to nickelback and shined against the Spartans.
Even though the nickel isn’t on the field for every play, Amanam became a huge part of Stanford’s memorable 2012 season. He stripped a UCLA kickoff returner and returned the fumble for a touchdown — without the ball even hitting the ground — to help the Cardinal clinch the Pac-12 North title; in the very same stadium a month later, he all but sealed Stanford’s 20-14 Rose Bowl win by picking off a Wisconsin pass late in the fourth quarter, also earning defensive MVP honors. Though Amanam wasn’t involved in as many turnovers in 2014, he undoubtedly added value to the Stanford secondary and led the defensive backs in tackles for loss on the year.
Pro stock: It’s unclear whether Amanam is still pursuing the NFL; he didn’t participate in Stanford’s pro day and isn’t receiving much attention from scouting websites. Yet he has a great backup plan in the oil and gas industry, as he explained to the Stanford School of Earth Sciences last year. “There’s a low probability that an NFL career is going to happen for most college football players,” he said. “If the football route doesn’t work out, I’ll have a Stanford degree to fall back on.”
Highlight: Amanam’s interception helped clinch the 2013 Rose Bowl victory for Stanford.
Contact Joseph Beyda at jbeyda ‘at’ stanford.edu.