Stanford leadership tree lends to consistency
TEMPE, Ariz. – Just seven years ago, the Stanford football program finished a season with a 1-11 record. The Cardinal have come a long way since, and after winning the Pac-12 title on Saturday against Arizona State, Stanford coach David Shaw only needed to read off a few important numbers to reflect on the state of the football program.
“The only thing I can say is what the facts are,” the coach offered when asked what Stanford has accomplished as a program. “The facts are three teams in the last four years have won 10-plus games – Stanford, Oregon, Alabama.”
A month ago, Shaw said he brought his seniors aside. The Cardinal had lost to the USC Trojans, their second defeat of the season, and the Stanford coach wanted to tell his players what was on the table. It wasn't the streak.
“What was at stake is their legacy. Forget about everything else,” Shaw said. “The legacy that they were going to leave at Stanford, and that was going out as winners."
Yet, the numbers tells of the legacy.
“Four straight – it's four, right, BCS games?” Shaw asked, pausing to make sure he was correct. “Wow, that's a lot.”
Stanford beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl in 2012, lost in overtime in the Fiesta Bowl in 2011 and won in the Orange Bowl in 2010. The consistency has been due to leadership. Linebacker Shayne Skov talked about playing behind and learning from the recent greats like Andrew Luck, David DeCastro and Bo McNally.
Skov guessed the Cardinal had the most fifth-year seniors of any team in the country, and Shaw added the leadership -- not to mention the tree branches to the past -- had been most impactful for his team.
As Stanford looks to the Rose Bowl, Shaw said it's hard not to get emotional in thinking about his senior leadership.
“Oh man, this week we try not to get real nostalgic, especially with Trent (Murphy), because Trent doesn't believe in nostalgia,” Shaw joked.
“As I tell people all the time, when the game starts, I'm half a field away," he added. "I can't play the game. We have to have leadership on the field, and we've had great leadership all year.”