Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Kick Off Dinner

The Stanford Football Kickoff Dinner is an event that I had always wanted to attend but never had the chance to because of work. This year I was determined to make it and managed to convince a friend to join me. We got there at around 3pm to watch the open practice and as someone who was never a railbird, it was interesting to see the various kickoff, hands team and 7 on 7 drills. Polian’s exuberance during special teams practice definitely stood out. Just like the scrimmage, I found it difficult to draw any real conclusions although one thing that stood out to me was that Owusu looked great (no surprise there based on what we’ve been hearing).

After practice ended, we dropped by the Hall of Fame room which was unfortunately closed and then ambled over to the stadium where just like the open house, there already was a line waiting to get in before doors opened. If that becomes a reoccurring theme this season, there are going to be no complaints from me!

Upon entering, we picked up our nametags and being somewhat unfamiliar with the setup, tried to figure out where to sit. It turned out that there were 3 main considerations – proximity to the front where a microphone was set up, amount of shade (some tables had umbrellas, others were in the sun) and the player/coach that would be seated at your table as denoted by the nametags on the table. The first and third factors were obviously the most important and so we ended up at one of the front most tables directly in the sun with Johnson Bademosi (a true senior and third year starter). I thought it would be interesting to talk to someone who had gone through different defensive schemes and coaches and being a senior, experienced at handling himself at these alumni events.

Bademosi didn’t disappoint and talked very glowingly about the current defensive staff and the tools/techniques/schemes that they had brought over from their respective backgrounds. He had very high expectations for the defense this year as they had a year under their belt. We got to talking about the top WRs in the conference like Robert Woods and Juron Criner and how Bademosi relished the opportunity to go against them. He made a great point that he gets to go against one of the top WRs in the conference ever day in Chris Owusu. At one point, we got to the topic of how Baldwin was beating out Golden Tate in Seattle and my friend innocently asked if Bademosi had ever covered Tate. With flashbacks to the Stanford-Notre Dame game, I thought “Not really”, but Bademosi handled it well and admitted that it was a rough game when he was still an inexperienced rookie thrown into the fire. He mentioned that all week during practice they had been coached to slide outside and ended up being beaten inside repeatedly. There were also a lot of jump balls where I would have opted for intentional pass interference, but I kept that to myself. Through our conversations, I also picked up the tidbit that Bademosi’s first start was his sophomore year (2010) against Arizona State which was coincidentally also the start of Albert and my consecutive games streak.

We had an alum at our table who had gone to the Graduate School of Business back in the day (the days of Plunkett his friend who had been a punter at Illinois ribbed him repeatedly) and had been a season ticket holder for 25 years. He was a fun guy to talk to and Bademosi definitely tried to pick him brain about his experiences and indicated that he wanted to go to Business School some day. It was a great table to be at and we were also up close for the speeches that Bowlsby and Shaw gave and the interviews that Husak conducted with Skov, Thomas, Taylor and Luck.

There wasn’t really too much that I hadn’t heard before but my friend who was hearing Shaw talk for the first time came away deeply impressed by his thoughtfulness and general demeanor. David Shaw is definitely someone who represents the university well. It was also great to see 3 generations of the Shaw family in attendance (everyone should read the great article about David Shaw and his dad Willie Shaw if they haven’t already: I thought that it was a nice touch to have Luck sit with them and not have to schmooze with alums although that obviously didn’t stop many well-wishers from stopping by for a picture or autograph. Taylor who I probably have heard the least from was very self effacing in talking about how with the O-line and TE blocking at the line of scrimmage, WRs blocking downfield and Luck preventing defenses from stacking the box, all he needed to do was run through holes. He didn’t mention his superb blocking skills but Husak brought it up and Taylor credited it to having to go against big guys like Shayne Skov in practice.

All in all, it was a great event from the food (Bademosi’s plate was stacked sky high with the special defensive back diet of 6 cookies) to the company to the interviews/speeches. My favorite moment thought had to do with our nametags. Upon entering, we were all given 2 nametags, one to wear on our shirts and the other to claim a seat at our tables. Most players didn’t bother with one given that they were wearing jerseys with their name on the back. Andrew Luck, however, only the most recognizable face in college football, had his nametag on!

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