Shuler talks Stanford official, Army game

After taking numerous unofficial visits to Stanford over the summer and fall, four-star offensive lineman Graham Shuler finally took his official visit to The Farm last weekend. He arrived in the Bay Area Thursday night before beginning the visit activities early Friday.

"We got in Thursday night and got to the hotel and I got to meet a couple guys that I hadn't met before like Zach Hoffpauir and Jameis Winston and Joshua Garnett," Graham Shuler said. "We kind of hit the hay early Thursday night. Friday we woke up and had breakfast, and kind of talked and got to know everybody a little better. Then we went on campus tours and met with different coaches and just really spent a lot of time getting to know each other. One of the more fun things we did, a lot of the guys, we did some more interactive stuff. We did a scavenger hunt all over campus with our player hosts.

"That night we had a big NCAA [video game] tournament on Xbox and we probably had I want to say like 32 games, it was a lot of fun. Then Saturday we had a brunch with the faculty. They were impressive. One of the things that I really took away from that that I hadn't necessarily before was we want to strive to be our best. You want to be the best you can be. That goes without saying, you do that every time. The thing they want to be here at Stanford is not just our best, but the best. And that for me was just really cool to see that you can always raise your standard higher. That's part of why I chose Stanford."

For the fiercely competitive Shuler, who was hosted on his visit by Brendon Austin, losing in the semifinals of the Xbox tournament provided a humorous point of frustration.

"Okay, this is messed up," Shuler said. "You play with your player host, so me and Brendon were playing Kodi Whitfield. Kodi has been whipping everybody, but we came out strong. We're driving down the field. We're on the 30-yard-line and I scramble with Andrew Luck and pick up like a 15-yard gain and go to slide. I go to slide, but instead it dives and fumbles and he takes it for six. Then I fumbled again on something else, so I ended up forcing to pass late in the fourth quarter trying to make something happen but we got picked off so that sealed it up. But I barely lost to him with a few turnovers, so it was just one of those games."

Bitter video game defeats aside, Shuler enjoyed getting to meet many members of Stanford's 2012 recruiting class that he had interacted with online for months.

"I love staying in touch with guys like Conner Crane and Dontonio Jordan and different guys that we've talked a lot," Shuler said. "I feel like after this weekend our class just got so much closer. We finally got to meet instead of talking over Facebook."

The four-star center also spent significant time with several of the uncommitted visitors, including Kyle Murphy, Garnett, Hoffpauir, and Winston.

"I really had such a great time getting to know those guys," Shuler said. "Me and Kyle had been down the Army Game for a week and really spent a lot of time together and got to hang out. I love Kyle, love Josh, love Jameis, this was the first time I had really spoken to Jameis and he's such an upstanding guy. It's one of those things where I would love all three of them to be with us at Stanford and hope that they potentially will be, but at the same time, I wish them in the best in their ventures in what they do, but I was definitely all over Kyle and Josh especially, trying to get some depth at offensive line, and so we had a big time, I felt like we all really hit it off well. That was awesome, and Jameis is just such a great guy. He really is awesome. Kind of a good ole' boy from the South, so I really enjoyed him. And then Zach [Hoffpauir], I spent a lot of time with him and he's such an awesome guy, so really, everybody that was there this weekend I felt like we really clicked and all really enjoyed each other."

Earlier this month, Shuler played in the prestigious Army All American game that aired Jan. 7 on NBC. He was one of the East team's top offensive linemen, and drew rave reviews from the recruiting websites for his performance.

"It was such an incredible honor to be down there, to be recognized by the Army to come down there and play a game," Shuler said. "It was honestly one of the best weeks of my life, if not the best. I made great friendships with coaches, with players on both teams that I know will last me a very long time, and also with the soldiers I got to be around. It was an incredible experience for me. I really felt like I performed well. The first day going up against the guys like Jonathan Bullard and some of those guys like Tyriq McCord, those guys can flat out play. And so it was a quick adjustment that I had to make in that whole ordeal, but I felt like I really handled it well. There were times that I got beat, sure, but I felt like I really won the majority of my battles and felt like my game performance was pretty good. I learned a lot that week. I learned a ton of football and realized how much of a jump it was going to be from high school to college, just the speed of the game and whatnot, but at the same time I gained a ton of confidence in just knowing that I can play at that level and that I can be successful at that level.

"That was the biggest thing for me, but also another thing was being around some of the soldiers - we got paired up with a solider hero. My solider was captain John Hintz. I believe he had two, maybe three Purple Hearts and a Medal of Valor. He had to recover from, he just had shoulder surgery and foot surgery and he was furious that he was not able to be back out in the thick of things with them. Those guys that I had the privilege of being around, it was just such an honor. I learned so much from those guys about perseverance and loyalty and really what it means to be a man."

After the game ended, NBC's cameras caught Shuler hugging Barry Sanders, who had just announced his verbal decision to Stanford. The particulars of the embrace created some faux "controversy" between Shuler and Sanders.

"When we got home from the game all my buddies were like, ‘Yeah, Barry left you hanging on TV,'" Shuler said. "‘I was like, what?' I went back and watched a DVD copy and after I picked him up I was standing there with my hand hanging out trying to get him to give me a high-five or something, and he just kind of circled around, and bless his heart, he had cameras in his face all week, so I took a video of it on my phone and sent it to Barry and I was like you owe me a formal apology, so we've been joking about that for a while. But I had a blast with him, just getting to know everybody."

With signing day just weeks away, Shuler is looking forward to his Stanford career, where he'll block for Sanders and a stable of other talented running backs.

"That's one of the things where I've been talking to Kyle and Josh and even Andrus when we talked, even though he wasn't there this weekend, it's just the type of backs we get to block for," Shuler said. "[I talked to] Stepfan Taylor last night some and was around him some this weekend. When you have backs like that, guys that are going to run so hard… I watched Barry run during the game, I watched him play, I've seen some of his film, the guy wants to be successful. And so when you're blocking for a guy that's going to do whatever he can to pick up those extra six inches every time he touches the ball, that excites you as an offensive lineman and makes you want to block for him even that much more."


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