Getting to Know: T.J. Novak
Sept. 17, 2008
STANFORD, Calif. - T.J. Novak, a senior and third-year starter from Fenton, Mo., returned to forward against USF last week. Novak began his Stanford career at the position, but played defender the past two years, and started in the midfield in the Cardinal's first three games this season.
Novak spoke with Gostanford.com about the position change and about playing two ranked opponents this weekend, Creighton and Drake, at the Stanford/Nike Classic at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium.
Q: Your role has evolved year to year and even game to game. What do you see your role being for the rest of the season?
A: Right now, I'm playing forward. I'm trying to spark our attack, to open up spaces, trying to use a little bit of pace to get behind the defense. I'm willing to do whatever I have to do, so it doesn't really affect me.
Q: Where do you feel most comfortable on the field?
A: I'm probably most comfortable in the back, because I can see the whole field in front of me. Sometimes I can lose track of the defenders when I'm playing forward, so it's hard for me to define the right space to hold those guys off.
Q: Because you've played so many different spots, does it help create a better understanding of what the defense is thinking?
A: Absolutely. I like to think that I see some spaces that, after going to the back for two years and going back up front, I wouldn't see otherwise. I see when a defender gets the ball, what they're next touch is going to be. I'm not going to have that feeling without knowing what I would do in that situation as a defender. So, that does kind help me out a little bit.
Q: You and Bobby Warshaw worked well together in the USF game, combining for a second-half goal in a 1-0 victory in your last game. Do you feel as if you can key off each other well?
A: I do. We've played a lot this summer together. We've been playing a lot together, actually. He plays like I do. He likes to play fast. He likes to play in front of him. It's really easy to play with him.
Q: Do you complement each other well?
A: We do. He likes to go back into the midfield and get the ball. I'm willing to go run behind the defense and open up spaces. He's awesome at getting in front of the goal. I'm better at getting the ball wide and then getting crosses.
Q: Being from Missouri, playing a Midwestern power like Creighton probably means a lot to you?
A: Actually, one of my good friends from club plays for Creighton. I played with four of their guys this summer. I know a few of their players, and we played them my freshman year in one of our first games in preseason.
Q: Are you looking forward to this game?
A: Definitely, my family's coming out. It'll definitely be fun.
Q: The team has been evolving so far this season. Where is the team right now?
A: I think the biggest thing for us right now is that everyone's starting to buy in. Everyone's starting to work and do the extra things that a team needs to do. At the beginning of the year, you could kind of see people looking to other people. What were they going to do? If there's a ball in between us, we'd think, he'll get it. I don't have to go for that ball. It's awesome to see now, especially in that USF game, against a big and really good team, that we were able to work hard and get in there and fight as hard as we did. It was nice to see that. Even in practice today, I thought we were working a lot harder than we have.
Q: School starts Monday. How will that affect the team, considering the additional demands on your time?
A: The biggest thing is we'll have to separate. We've spent the past month living together. It's been cool hanging out together, developing our own relationships, our own cliques. Now, we're all separate again and we'll be regular students. It'll be tough. That's probably the hardest thing, finding time to still hang out with the team, still feeling like a team and still being together, because we'll all live in different places. With school, guys generally are really good about time management and stuff like that. You get people who have to stay up late and study for midterms. We'll have a game on the weekend, and people will be up late studying. In that sense, it's a little bit more demanding. You don't get a chance to kick back and relax as much as in the preseason.
Q: Not only is Creighton a highly-ranked team, but Drake is coming in at 6-0. You'll have to come down from the high of a Friday night television game and still have to play well on Sunday afternoon. How tough will that be?
A: It'll be tough, but the good thing about the Pac-10 and the way our schedule is, that's how we have to have it every weekend. We'll play UCLA and then have to play San Diego State, which is a good team as well. And do the same thing with Washington and Oregon State. It's all Friday-Sunday. We're all used to that.
Q: Is this a big weekend for your team?
A: A huge weekend. If we could get out of here with two wins, or two results, that'll be huge.