Interview with DL coach Dave Tipton

We were very fortunate to get the chance to talk with defensive line coach Dave Tipton about his role as the Stanford football program's recruiting coordinator. Enjoy the answers of this former famed Thunder Chicken!

Dave Tipton

I had a chance to sit down with Dave Tipton and talk about recruiting, the Rose Bowl, and the NFL. Here is the first part of my interview dealing with recruiting.

Dave Tipton Bio

Dave Tipton was hired as part of Denny Green's staff on July 11, 1989, coached on Green's staff for three seasons (1989-91) and Bill Walsh's staff for three years (1992-94). Tipton coaches the defensive interior line as well as taking on the responsibility as the program's recruiting coordinator.

Coaching Career:


Defensive line coach at United States International University in San Diego, California

1978 - 1980

Defensive coordinator at Bonita High School in Chula Vista, CA

1981 - 1983

Defensive coordinator at Sweetwater High School in National City, CA

1984 - 1987

Defensive line coach and special teams coordinator at Cal State-Fullerton


Defensive line coach at Oregon State

Tipton graduated from Stanford in May 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. He later received a Master of Arts degree in Education with an emphasis in Physical Education from Azusa Pacific University in August 1981.

While at Stanford:

  • Coaches All-America team as a senior defensive tackle in 1970
  • A member of the famed "Thunder Chickens"
  • Defeated Big-10 Champion Ohio State, 27-17, to win the Rose Bowl


  • Drafted in the fourth round by the New York Giants
  • NY Giants (1971-73)
  • San Diego Chargers (1974-75)
  • Seattle Seahawks (1976)


Dave and his wife, Mia, have four children - Matthew (born 11/25/77), Megan (born 5/9/81), Will (born 8/14/84) and Amanda (born 7/16/87)

The Bootleg: What is the most challenging aspect about recruiting at Stanford?

Tipton: Finding a good fit, a young man good enough athletically for us to win in the Pac-10 and by the same token for him to be good enough academically to thrive and succeed at Stanford. That is the real challenge. The huge pool narrows very quickly to fit into our category. That is why we have to recruit all over the country to find that special young man.

The Bootleg: What makes Stanford special?

Tipton: Again I think the young men we are dealing with are really special because they are great athletes and great students. We tell kids you have put yourself in a special category because you're obviously very talented and you're obviously very bright. Stanford in my mind gives them the very best of everything. Certainly there are great football powers and great academic powers, but Stanford gives them the best of everything. Stanford really sells itself in that regard.

The Bootleg: Why does the typical recruit choose Stanford, is it this total package you are talking about?

Tipton: Yes, I really think it is (the package). You always get the story of guys like Darrin Nelson who like seeing the bicycles accidents in the middle of the quad; that's pretty rare (Dave says laughing). I think, boy I tell you what, when we can get a young man to fill out an application, get him admitted to Stanford and then get him here on campus with Mom and Dad, very few say no. Stanford really sells itself. It's a really special place.

The Bootleg: What part of the recruiting process do you like the least?

Tipton: Probably answering silly questions like this (Dave says deadpanning and we both laugh). Battling away on a young man, you're getting excited about, and you this guy can make a difference in your program ... and one, he doesn't get admitted to school, which can be a stake in the heart sometime. Two, they decide to go elsewhere when deep in your heart you know that Stanford is where they belong. We always have this saying that Stanford is not a four-year decision, it's a forty-year decision. And we know deep in our hearts what Stanford can do for this young man. And maybe he decides to go elsewhere for all the wrong reasons ... maybe girls are prettier somewhere else, or maybe distance, or whatever it is. Or it could be when some young man just has his heart set on going to Stanford and he doesn't get in school ... that just crushes me.

The Bootleg: What is the most common reason you lose recruits?

Tipton: Number 1, they don't get admitted and I think maybe for some kids, distance. Once they get here and Mom and Dad are willing to deal with that and realize that the country is much smaller than it use to be. That's probably the biggest reason.

The Bootleg: What is the relationship like between the staff and the Admissions department?

Tipton: Oh, it's very good. It is very good. We try to get them involved in as many things over here, i.e. such as junior day and try to get them to come along on some of our trips as guests of the football dept. That's why I think we have a really good relationship. I think we try to do a great job on our end by weeding student athletes out, even if a kid has pretty close to the right numbers, we can tell that the kid is not a Stanford guy. He is not going to fit in well here. We have a tremendous amount of respect for admissions. They have an awesome job over there. I don't know how they pull it off.

The Bootleg: We've talked on the BootBoard that it is harder to get a kid past admissions the closer they are to Stanford (feeder schools)? What are your thoughts?

Tipton: That is one facet they have to deal with, the so-called feeder schools. They have to deal with a lot of pressure. That kind of goes back to that particular high school. That is important how they're going to back the young man, what kind of references they are going to give him. If they have a 100 kids applying to S that puts a lot of pressure on that school and our Admissions. All of a sudden, you have to say how come you took this one and this one, how come you turned down this one. People obviously need to understand what football is all about. That is an issue that they (Admissions) have to deal with.

The Bootleg: Does it make any difference to you which other schools are recruiting a player you are after?

Tipton: Yeah, I think it does. We have to be really careful. I know everyone's gotten caught up in the past on "yeah this guy is being recruited by this school and this school" but we don't want to recruit paper all-Americans. We want to be right on with our evaluations. Now if we don't like a guy and the world is recruiting him we'd better go back and take another look. Let's take another look to see what other people are seeing in him. If we still don't think he fits us, we'll pass, but it sure will make you take that extra look. It's sure a lot more comfortable when you're recruiting a guy and everybody else like too. But you have to look at some of kids we have in our program, Todd Husak, Troy Walters, Tank Williams, Willie Howard - very lightly recruited. They all turned out good for us. These kids were not being heavily recruited.

The Bootleg: How much attention do you pay to the recruiting mags and their "experts"?

Tipton: Their evaluations? Not very much. It's an affirmation when they're (in there). Too, too often I've seen them rate players that we don't have rated very highly rated way up there. It's that paper all-American stuff. And too often, kids that we love, kids that we have confidence in are not rated very highly. There are a lot of mistakes made there, a lot of mistakes.

The Bootleg: Do you use the recruiting mags as a resource?

Tipton: . Yes, again as an affirmation. Every now and then a kid will show up that we don't know anything about.

The Bootleg: How does attendance and facilities come into play?

Tipton: It all plays a part. If your facilities are really that much different from somebody else's, it all plays a part. I think our facilities are as good as, or approaching, anybody else's. I think our new building here has really helped us. I don't think we have to take a back seat to anybody. Certainly our attendance figures - people try to use that against us. And at times our attendance has been down and then again a lot of them (games) are well attended. I think it certainly plays a part, but not a massive part. Especially when you talk about Stanford that has such an incredible school and as people understand what we are all about, what Stanford can do for a young man, then whether you get 50 thousand or 60 thousand, it's not going to make a big difference, or at least it shouldn't

The Bootleg: How much extra work is it being a recruiting coordinator?

Tipton: Well it's just different. I'm not sure it's all that much extra work, the work is different because I don't travel. These guys (the other coaches) are out on the road right now and my phone is ringing off the hook. We all have our roles, like Phil Zack is our special teams coordinator and he has extra work in that regard. So we all have different things. I know that it's (RC) is a lot of responsibility and I been fortunate to have a some really good assistants ... Tim Manning was super for me over the past few years and now Matt Komo.

The Bootleg: We've talked a lot on the BootBoard about having a position coach being the RC vs. a full-time RC. What are your thoughts?

Tipton: I think there is a lot of value (in the way we're doing it), obviously I like the way we're doing it because it would be to tough to pull a coach off the field ... WOW! We are all needed out there. We're fortunate enough to have some really quality assistants like Matt Komo who handles a lot of that stuff for me. When I'm in meetings and when I'm on the field, he's able to handle a lot of things for me. I think it works out very well for us to have it this way. To have a full-time coordinator who is on the road a lot more .... there might be some value to it, but I like the way we do it.

The Bootleg: Do you ever get a break on a really special player like John Elway?

Tipton: They (Admissions) try to take a lot of things into perspective. There are a lot of things that go into that decision. Certainly if he is a great, great player, they'll take that into consideration, because the bottom line is when they put a stamp on a guy, that means they really feel that this young man will succeed at Stanford. That puts a lot of pressure on them. They take their job very, very seriously. Obviously, that's a part of the piece of the puzzle. Is he a great, great player? What kind of impact is he going to have on the team? I think they take this into consideration. He has to have everything else going for him. I think they try to do this.

The Bootleg: How have the admissions issues changed at Stanford over the years?

Tipton: When I first got here (with Denny Green), I don't think there was the rapport between Admissions and football. In some ways they made it tougher. It was fine line; we are talking about 3-4 kids. There are always the kids that are going to get in here and they are kids that always not going to get in here ... And we are just talking about the gray area that makes a fine line. I think it's been a more positive thing since I've been here. It's a real positive change in that area. We are always hopeful for more.

I would like to thank Dave Tipton for taking time to talk with me. I just hope he doesn't find out that I work with The Bootleg (hehe).

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