Win or lose in the Rose Bowl, Friday will be the last time in a Stanford uniform for many members of Stanford’s 2012 recruiting class and all remaining members of the 2011 recruiting class.
As a senior and member of Stanford’s 2012 “recruiting class” myself, that’s hard to fathom.
Weird as it might sound, Stanford football sort of “recruited” me, too. In choosing a college, I had two criteria: a good engineering program and a good football team. I didn’t apply to any schools that didn’t meet my criteria and I wrote one of my application essays on how I would never miss a home game and would be Stanford’s biggest fan – for the sake of media integrity, I decline to follow up on my success in living up to the biggest fan promise.
At the time, I checked up on Stanford’s roster and 2012 recruiting class to find out the players that would represent my school during my time there and ultimately evaluate how successful I thought the team would be during my four years. I came to the conclusion that Stanford offered the better engineering program and USC offered the best next-four-years football experience – shows you what I knew – and settled on Stanford anyways.
I thought that wins and losses would determine the value of my undergraduate college football experience, that being 10-2 and winning the conference would always be a better experience than being 7-5.
And I was dead wrong.
Don’t misunderstand me here, watching a winning team is great. Three Rose Bowls in four years as an undergraduate? I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Very few people in life will be able to say they watched their football team play in three Rose Bowls.
What I didn’t understand at the time was the value of the journey and the value of watching a team you can truly be proud of, on and off the field.
In my time at Stanford, I’ve had the pleasure of watching the journey and growth of so many players whom I can be proud to have representing me and my university.
I watched as Kevin Hogan fought the unfair shadow of Andrew Luck to lead Stanford to even higher heights than Luck did. Then in 2014, I learned of the terrible tragedy Hogan dealt with throughout his entire time at Stanford – his father’s cancer and eventual passing in December of 2014. Through it all, Hogan never failed to lead his teammates on the field or to give them his all.
It wasn’t the fact that Stanford beat Notre Dame that made the 2015 victory so special. It was watching Hogan, in his last act at Stanford stadium, lead his team against the odds to a win over the school that meant so much to him, his father and his entire family. It was witnessing Hogan’s Stanford journey conclude in the finest of ways, a storybook ending to the career of a man who never let any adversity prevent him from giving his all to the university which gave him the opportunity to play football.
I watched as Blake Martinez grew from a lightly-recruited player in high school who wasn’t offered by his home-state schools – Arizona and Arizona State – into an All-American linebacker and captain of the defense.
I watched as Ronnie Harris, who had only three career starts entering 2015, happily embraced the role of experienced veteran and captained a young secondary, leading them by example in every facet of the game on and off the field.
I watched Kyle Murphy and Josh Garnett take on the responsibility of leading the offensive line and challenging it to grow from its mediocre 2014 performance into the next great version of the Tunnel Workers Union – a feat they accomplished and then some, arguably becoming the greatest offensive line Stanford has ever had.
I watched Rollins Stallworth, Craig Jones, Conrad Ukropina and others walk onto the football team and through hard work not only earn scholarships but play significant roles in the team’s fortunes this season.
Even though I’m breaking from my theme of discussing seniors, I also had the honor of watching Christian McCaffrey represent Stanford in the finest way possible at the Heisman Trophy proceedings in 2015, handling the frenzy and result with class, intelligence and a smile.
It’s players and moments like these that I’ll remember 20 years down the road. It’s because of these guys and similar student-athletes among all Stanford Athletics programs that I support Stanford Athletics with pride. The wins and success that abound through Stanford Athletics just add to the fun.
I might be cheating and returning for one last round at Stanford with a co-term year, but for many of these seniors, they will be finished this Friday at the Rose Bowl.
So here’s to Kevin Anderson, to Brendon Austin, to Devon Cajuste, to Josh Garnett, to Ronnie Harris, to Kevin Hogan, to Blake Martinez, to Kyle Murphy, to Ra’Chard Pippens, to Torsten Rotto, to Brennan Scarlett, to Aziz Shittu, to Rollins Stallworth, to Kodi Whitfield, to Remound Wright and to anyone else who might be playing their final game in a Stanford uniform on Friday. You made this student’s college decision the right one.
Michael Peterson never did get to suit up as seventh-string Stanford quarterback as he always hoped to during his four years on The Farm, but he’ll have to make do with the knowledge that he was the voice of a Rose Bowl season and will always be an IM sports legend. Contact him at mrpeters ‘at’ stanford.edu.