The fertile football grounds of Pennsylvania produce top athletes every year, but Stanford has had a terrible time of late pulling recruits away from regional powers. The last Keystone State star to come to The Farm was prep All-American receiver Nick Sebes in 2000. Since then the Card have come up empty, but that may change this coming February with Red Lion HS senior Austin Gunder. The 6'5" 235-pound athlete earned Defensive Player of the Year honors for his county, on the heels of his 61 tackles and six sacks at defensive end, but colleges like Stanford are hungry for him on the other side of the ball at the next level.
"A lot of people say I could really excel on offense," he describes. "I can pick up an offense quickly and I have good hands. I have the size to block, but the speed and quickness to stretch the field."
With Red Lion (7-3) running a wing-T offense that very rarely threw the ball his way, Gunder's tight end numbers will not overwhelm: 11 catches for 180 yards this senior season. But a number of college coaches have been excited about what they forecast for him. Offers have come from Stanford, Louisville, Temple, Western Michigan and others.
"I think the biggest thing for me to improve is just putting on muscle mass," the recruit says of his future. "Yeah, you have to get down the field in passing patterns, but you also have to block 21-year old defensive ends. I know I need to be bigger, stronger and more physical to do that and be successful."
Not long ago Gunder declared that he had narrowed his list of schools down to three: Stanford, Louisville and Penn State. The Nittany Lions have not yet made an offer, but they have told him that they are still evaluating their needs and players on their board for their last five to six scholarships. They are keeping him interested, and any school has to be mindful of the impact a Penn State offer could make on an in-state kid.
"It is the dream for any Pennsylvania kid to go there," Gunder admits. "But not many people have the chance to go to Stanford."
"The thing about Stanford," he continues, "is that I haven't seen it yet. I have been to Louisville and felt comfortable. I could fit in there. They are a team on the rise and joining the Big East is huge."
Gunder has given an advantage for Louisville over Stanford due to his favorable unofficial visits and their proximity to home. But with a big phone call he received today, there has been a change at the top. The tight end recruit called The Bootleg this afternoon with the breaking news.
"I just heard from Coach Teevens and Coach Cubit today that I had just been accepted to Stanford," the 6'5" tight end says. "I can't even explain how amazing this is. I was worried about not getting accepted, and now I feel such relief. I wasn't even sure if Stanford was an option for me, but it's real now. Stanford is a real option that I can emotionally invest myself into and dig deeper."
Gunder will visit both schools in January and says that he would like to hold off on any decision until after they are completed. That being said, he declares that the Cardinal have moved ahead of the Cardinals.
"At this point, I think Stanford has become my leader," he declares. "I have a feeling I am going to get blown away when I visit there. I like what I hear about things there in California, and I've been talking a lot with [Stanford commit] Alex Fletcher from New York. He's been telling me a lot that has me excited about the trip. And Stanford is a good fit for my major - there of lots of aeronautical things there."
The Red Lion senior says that he is likely to choose between Stanford and Louisville, unless a late Penn State offer mixes things up. He will visit Stanford on January 9 and then Louisville on January 16. "After seeing both places, I expect I'll have a decision pretty soon - probably that week after my last visit."
One factor that remains on the side of nearby Louisville is distance. While they are not next door, they are far closer to his Red Lion home than Palo Alto. "My mom would like me closer to home," Gunder allows. "But I tell her that playing major football doesn't allow you to get home all the time. And besides, the difference between driving to Louisville and flying to Stanford is just two hours on a plane."
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