Quietly Leading the Way
Most senior athletes would be hard pressed to write a better script than this. With just three games remaining in your collegiate career, consider the following: you're sporting a 6-2 overall record, are tied for second place in arguably one of the best conferences in college football and have already knocked off two teams ranked in the nation's top-five. Throw in the fact that you're a lock for a bowl game and have been ranked in the top-25 for six of the last seven weeks.
These are the kinds of things that keep upperclassmen focused during the beginning of preseason workouts. As for Cardinal senior Zack Quaccia, publicity and fanfare may as well be thrown out of the equation. The sheer joy of competition is enough for Quaccia, and has been for the last four years.
'It doesn't matter,' says Quaccia about the publicity. 'I've been playing long enough to know that it really doesn't matter very much to me. You just have to go out there and do your job and get it done.'
That plain-and-simple approach has been Quaccia's mindset since he first appeared on The Farm in 1997. Then again, what else would you expect from a starting center? Playing a position that often goes unrecognized or perhaps doesn't receive as much notoriety as the others tends to keep you somewhat subdued. That's not an issue with Quaccia, who prefers to just go about his business and let his teammates handle the exposure.
However, to say that the Oakdale, Calif., native hasn't played a role in the Cardinal's magical season would be a huge understatement. Quaccia and the rest of the veteran offensive line have been instrumental to Stanford's offensive success in 2001. Quaccia and company have done a superb job of paving the way for the running game, which was second in the Pac-10 and 22nd in the nation in rushing offense entering the Big Game. The offensive line has done an equally efficient job of protecting the quarterback, as Cardinal signal-callers have thrown for close to 2000 yards and 20 touchdown passes. Quaccia, along with Eric Heitmann and Greg Schindler, have all now been in the starting lineup for the third straight season and have combined to start 87 games the past two-plus years. According to Quaccia, that kind of continuity has made a difference.
'We have a lot of experience playing with one another and you tend to learn each other's tendencies when you've been together for that long,' Quaccia said.For a younger player just starting out, Quaccia is someone they can definitely learn a lot from. A three-year starter and four-year letterwinner, he began last year as the team's starting center, but finished the season by starting the final two games at left guard. The history major started all 12 games in 1999 and played in 11 contests in a reserve role during his sophomore campaign.
'I think he is one of the premier centers in the Pac-10, if not the country,' said offensive line coach John McDonell. 'He's always been an outstanding player and as he's grown, he's molded into a great team leader.'
One of the older players on the roster, Quaccia is indeed looked to for leadership. And while he's not likely to make any rousing half-time speeches or get in the face of another teammate, he has been tabbed a 'quiet leader' by fellow coaches and players. Rough exterior aside, Quaccia is highly soft-spoken and shrugs at the label.
'I don't know so much about being called a leader,' said Quaccia. 'A lot of times guys just look at me because I've been here the longest and know the plays a little more than they might so I'll get asked questions. So maybe by that, they think I'm leading them. Really, I just go out and play center.'
One thing is for sure- Quaccia has improved greatly since his freshman season. He has become both faster and stronger, to which he credits the strength and conditioning program which he describes as 'the best in the country.' Quaccia's older brother Luke played baseball at Stanford from 1996-1997 and while the two were never on campus at the same time, his decision to enroll became a no-brainer after being around his brother.
'It was so close to home that our family could come watch his games every weekend if we wanted to. We would come up to watch and sometimes I would get to stay overnight and then see how great the campus was.'
At any rate, Quaccia's low-key demeanor and competitive spirit will be missed once the season is complete and his time on The Farm comes to an end.
'I'll miss being able to talk football with him,' admitted McDonell. 'Zack's a real student of the game and when you put a play up on the chalkboard, he understands it very well. It's been fun just sitting down and discussing football with him.'
By Brian Risso, Athletic Media Relations