The Stanford Cardinal’s resurgence from 2006 to 2012 marked one of the most remarkable transformations in college football history — at one of the most remarkable times in college football history.
In the era of the spread, a finesse offense reinvented itself as a physically imposing, run-first attack that used more tight ends and fullbacks on a single drive than most of its opponents had on their rosters. In the era of short college careers followed by lucrative professional ones, a once-in-a-generation quarterback stayed the course for a third shot at a conference title. And in the era of recruiting violations at USC, improper benefits at Ohio State, a lack of institutional control at Miami and altered grades at Auburn, a team at an elite university that had never gone to four consecutive bowls or won 11 games (and was on the heels of the worst season in school history) decided to become one of the most confident — and most successful — programs in the country.
Stanford Daily beat writers Joseph Beyda, George Chen and Sam Fisher interviewed 30 current and former players and coaches to bring you that story, “Rags to Roses: The Rise of Stanford Football.”
Stanford Daily announces football book
Stanford football's is a story that we believe is unique in the world of sports, which is why George Chen, Sam Fisher and Joseph Beyda embarked on this project.
On quick kicks and bear crawls
Every turnover meant 100 yards of bear crawls the next day. Every penalty added 100 more yards. Suddenly, the games didn’t seem to matter — only the bear crawls did.
'Belief without seeing'
There was no proof that Harbaugh's model would work, no evidence that a team with a reputation as soft would become one of the toughest in the country.
To redshirt, or not to redshirt, Andrew Luck
Partway into the season, Harbaugh still had lingering concerns about Luck’s physical development, but making the best decision for the team as a whole was also crucial.
Going for two
“That’s something that you kind of dream about,” Chase Beeler says, “when your opponent is literally begging you to relent, and just throwing in the towel.”
'Celebrating with football'
Harbaugh told them they were going to “celebrate Christmas and Jesus Christ by celebrating with football” on Christmas Eve, but a brawl broke out at practice instead.
Luck's easy decision
Andrew Luck, after staying up and celebrating the entire night, sat in a Miami hot tub and told his teammates that he was returning to Stanford for his senior season.
Leadup to Oregon
For two consecutive seasons, the Ducks had denied the Card the conference title; Luck even admitted that Stanford was suffering from an “Oregon problem.”
Did you know…
Future Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart didn’t know which way the play was going on his first collegiate carry.
Jim Harbaugh hates curry. But when visiting the Lucks to recruit Andrew in 2007, he took seconds.
Harbaugh is a Microsoft Excel addict — and he’s used PowerPoint to spark a minor riot in the Cardinal meeting room.
Andrew Luck woke up “probably five times” the night before his first career start in 2009…at reigning 2-11 Washington State.
For more never-before-reported details about your favorite members of the Stanford football program, check out the book!
31 members of the Cardinal football program, including:
Offensive Coordinator (2007-10), Head Coach (2011-present)
"I said, ‘I’m not putting my stamp on this program. This is your program...Here’s how it was built, and now we’re going to keep building.'"
Head Coach (2007-10)
"The hard part is to get it started, to get it moving. And once you get it moving, that thing just gets faster and faster and faster and faster. And it does great work."
Running Back (2006-09)
"Going down to the Coliseum and absolutely stomping them...really epitomized what Coach Harbaugh was about, and what Stanford football’s identity was becoming."
"I had fun. I didn’t want to grow up yet. I didn’t want responsibilities yet. I enjoyed my buddies and everything. The culture, the school, everything about Stanford."
Offensive/ Defensive Lineman (2005-10)
"We’re coming at the biggest, baddest dog in the junkyard. We’re coming for you, even though we’re a little Chihuahua right now. That’s the mentality he brought.”
"Once you can either smell fear in your opponent or you’ve cracked the door open, you want to open it all the way. You’re not going to half-ass it. You want to dominate."
"I said, really to myself, ‘This is meant to be. There’s a reason we’re put in this situation.’ And I felt like it was just my time to go out there and change — change everything.”
Director of Football Administration (2007-present)
"The things you have to do to gain admission to Stanford are completely, categorically different than any other program that plays Division I football...hands down."