Football Parents Speak Out

The off-season always brings questions, and last winter brought many with the changes in Stanford football. Inspired by the BootBoard posting from Lola Oshinowo, a host of player parents spoke out in support of the University and program, and they are revisited here. These messages go out to the Stanford community, Stanford recruits and their families... and, wow, what a message.

Updated January 18, 2002

 

Lola Oshinowo (#96 O.J. Oshinowo)

As a parent of football player who went through the recruiting "jungle" a year ago, my advice to the recruits is to do everything you can to avoid letting the head coaching situation affect your decision. Focus on what is important to you and your future (a solid education and a good football program). Notre Dame was one of the schools that tried to recruit my son, and our living in the midwest made Notre Dame "attractive". Our son chose Stanford. Why?

1. Stanford Football is one of the better programs in the country regardless of the head coach, It is in the best athletic program in the country. The team is solid with great, talented student-athletes who can compete for a national championship

2. Stanford education is much better. How do I know? I have worked at colleges for the past 20 years of my career. Do not let anyone convince you that the quality of education at Notre Dame is comparable to that at Stanford

3. Banking on having the same coaching staff throughout your college football career is as good as banking on not having snow in Alaska. Put your education and future first!! No one can guarantee that TW will be at ND throughout the next football season.

Try to make a wise decision. Good Luck!


Ted Royster (#30 Brandon Royster)

What the Stanford Cardinal means...

1.  Excellence in Education
2.  Excellence in Athletics

Short and simple phrases, that when properly applied, will have a significant impact on your future.  If you haven't experienced it yet, you will find out that the only thing constant in life is change.  The keys to success include one's ability to meet challenges and adjust to change.  As scholar athletes who have been drawn to and are considering Stanford for a higher education environment, the foundation is in place on which you can build.  Consider the credentials of the complete academic and athletic staff.  Closely examine the educational environment and offerings in a challenging environment:  award winning professors on the staff; the Hoover Institute; access to Silicon Valley technological resources; strong connections to government resources; and much, much more.  How can Stanford's offerings be applied to your goals?  What do you have to offer Stanford and those with whom you will face the disciplines of a high caliber learning and sports environment?

Every year the Stanford sports program for men and women excels in baseball, basketball, football, golf, volleyball...  Student athletes come to Stanford to learn and apply themselves in a dedicated environment filled with resources and a supporting community. 

Our mascot is a tree.  To me that tree represents knowledge, growth, wisdom and the ability to endure through the years.  As a proud parent with a son at Stanford, the best advice that I can offer is, "Come!  Be a part of it. Add to the strong reputation, tradition of excellence and high standing of Stanford's education and athletics programs."


Terry and Teri Leonard (#99 Matt Leonard)

To Stanford Recruits and their families:  

Stanford Football can lose top recruits because of high academic requirements.  Frankly, we wouldn't have it any other way.  As the parents of a player recruited by all the top schools in the country (including Notre Dame and the Florida schools) our son chose Stanford because of that reason. Stanford football represents the best scholar/athletes in the country.  The talent on Stanford's team is as good as any in the country and is getting better with every season. The surprising thing is that after being involved with Stanford football for 4 years, we are now even more impressed with the quality of the program than ever!  Stanford football is so much more than Mr. Willingham.  Stanford football will be great with or without him. We have an exciting new head coach that was the coordinator of one of  the top offensive teams in the country.  With the continuity of Coach Tipton on defense, an injection of new energy in the offense and an exceptional athletic talent pool, we realistically see the potential for a conference if not a National title. But beyond all that (and more importantly), there is a level of dignity at Stanford that supercedes football. Despite Stanford having the strictest admissions requirements in Division 1 football, our son's teammates are the young men that made that cut. These are the type of young men we are thrilled to have our son associate with. Remember parents: football players live, eat, train and socialize with other football players.  These top caliber individuals would be your sons' peers.  Excellence builds on excellence.  Without exception, when we tell people we have a son at Stanford, eyes light up with admiration and it will be that way for him the rest of his life.  Notre Dame and other schools take inordinate pride in filling their stadiums but what good would that actually do your son?  (Besides, what else is there to do in South Bend?! )

Best wishes on making the right decision... we know Matt did.


Dean Anderson (#97 Mark Anderson)

Stanford has outdone itself again with the hiring of Teevens.  Soon we will be filled in on the rest of what will be an outstanding staff.  If you want to play wide-open, Florida-style football, with a Stanford degree, then this is the right choice for the next 4 to 5 years.  If you love to play defense, you will fit right in with the outstanding classes ahead of you.  Everything is falling into place for Stanford to be a great team on both sides of the ball.  All this in Div 1A with a Stanford degree, great campus, unbeatable climate, fantastic connections and a group of fellows unique in the ranks of college football.  Mark, my son, was contacted and/or offered by more than seventy institutions, including the likes of Princeton, Harvard, Miami, Notre Dame, Northwestern, Iowa, Colorado, Clemson, Washington, Oregon and Stanford.  We visited many campuses, evaluated the academics and football from top to bottom.  In the end, the opportunity to play Div 1A football at the #1 academic university made the decision obvious; there are too many pluses, in addition to football, not to make Stanford the choice.

More nationally recognized athletes (one in six) are present on campus than at any other one in the nation.  If you love sports of all kinds, then only Stanford can satisfy your needs (find out about the Sears trophy).  Never forget, the Stanford degree is available to a very very small pool of athletes worldwide.  When you're not playing football, you can watch top-ranked men's and women's basketball, volleyball (national champions), baseball (national champions), golf (Tiger Woods loved Stanford), water polo (tops), etc. The list goes on and on --- no other university can claim such laurels.

Remember, you can go anywhere else and be a football jock but, at Stanford, you are one of many gifted athletes that will have a degree from the #1 rated academic Div 1A institution in the nation.  However, if all you want is to play in the NFL, then any of the 130 colleges will do.  If you really do pride yourself in academic abilities as well as football and are included in that very small, very select few to be offered a Stanford scholarship --- grab it !!  Some are intimidated by all that Stanford offers and should remember the words of the bard, Shakespeare, "Our doubts are traitors that make us lose the good we 'oft might win for fearing to attempt."  If you are one of the fortunate few to be offered the opportunity to attend Stanford, grab it, hang on and enjoy the ride!!!


George and Suzan Crochet (#86 Gerren Crochet)

Here is something positive about our welcoming experience to Stanford:   Our son Gerren Crochet arrived at Stanford as a freshman in August 2001.  His older brother Damien had long left the football program under Willingham.  We did not expect to know any of the players and none of the staff.  Of course, Ty Willingham knew us and was the first to greet us as we walked on the campus - three days before the freshman were to arrive.  His personal, genuine style appeared to be unique and we did not expect that Gerren would began to feel "at home" here until he would get to know the other team members.   There were at least a dozen people that extended a genuine, warm welcome to Gerren and to us.  Here is just a sample of what we experienced in the first two days:

  • Coy Wire invited Gerren to play a pick-up game of touch football with other team members.
  • Track coach Vin Lananna just happen to be on the track as we walked across it to our car when he welcomed us to Stanford.  Moments later, 6 to 7 track team members came up to introduce themselves to Gerren.  Vin helped us connect with track coach Edrick Floreal who has followed Gerren's football and track career.
  • As we were leaving the track, we saw Pat Dement.  She invited us to join them at their home for a visit.  Just to make sure that we were not breaking any NCAA rules, Pat contacted Dave Tipton to get the rules.  We met Bill and Pat Dement on the recruiting trip in January.  Pat and Bill are the most wonderful folks that we have ever met!
  • Of course, Dave Tipton, the football office staff and several coaches took time to offer help.  Ty even took the time to recommend and give us directions to the nearest rental car agency.

It seemed that everywhere we turned, someone was there to welcome us or offer support -- and they were not being paid to do it.  It only took 24 hours and we knew that we were "home."


Joe Faust (#32 Justin Faust)

Like the parent(s) of every Stanford football student-athlete, I could write volumes on the recruiting process and the ultimate selection of schools. Our sons were highly sought after by the finest universities in our country. They chose Stanford. Why?

Very early on they understood, with our support and encouragement, the true value of education and high achievement. Our young men, while excelling on the football field, separated themselves from others of similar athletic talent by committing to academic superiority. That academic commitment provided them with an additional option when selecting a college. That commitment to excellence allowed them to look for something special in a college. Something more than an athletic experience, but an experience the will positively endure a lifetime.

Please don't sell the football experience short. In our three years with the program Stanford has won a PAC-10 Championship, defeated national powers like the University of Texas and Notre Dame, played in two bowls games including its first Rose Bowl in nearly 30 years, and was consistently ranked in the top 10 in the Bowl Championship Series throughout most of the 2001 season. Stanford football is for real and can successfully compete with any team in the country. But there is more.

There is that something special that the Stanford experience offers. That something special those Stanford student-athletes earned the right to be part of by their commitment off the field as well as on it. In all honesty, I will tell you there is no perfect program. Your son will find challenges in any situation. However, from our intimate three-year relationship and viewing prospects for the future, Stanford stands far superior to any other university.


Carl Stimson (#72 Dustin Stimson)

I was in the Home Depot on the day it was announced Coach Willingham was headed to ND.  My cell phone rang, it was my son Dustin # 72.  

"Dad, have you been watching ESPN Sports?"  

"No son, I'm at Home Depot."  

"Coach Willingham is going to ND!"  

Of course, my concern was how Dustin would take the news.  So I asked him, "how are you doing and how do you feel about this?"  

"I'm disappointed but remember what I said several years ago when we discussed a possible coaching change during my time at Stanford?"  

Of course I did, but I was more comfortable knowing he remembered his comments.  When I asked him about committing to Stanford, and there is always the possibility of Willingham leaving, any concerns?  He replied, "Dad, this is Stanford, they'll get another great coach." Boy was I happy. His position coach is headed to ND as well.  But he feels he'll need to make the most of an opportunity, and not have any potential baggage with someone new.

I understand that Coach Willingham and the rest of the departing staff will be at the football banquet on Sunday!  That shows everyone the quality of the coaches who are afforded the opportunity to coach at such a GREAT university.  As parents of a student/athlete, we are very proud that our son attends a university where education and development of young people is given a higher value then just winning football games! (Of course we want to win, but not by lowering our academic standards).


Julie and Ed Culver (#56 Capp Culver)

Most asked question at home:  "How could you let your son go all the way from TX to CA to play football at Stanford?"  Our response was always:  "Are you kidding?  Why wouldn't we?"  Our son, Capp Culver, a redshirt freshman linebacker, came to Stanford from a rural town of 2,500 in the Panhandle of TX.  Some of his comments at the freshman dinner in Aug. were something like, "I come from a place that has more oil wells than people and more cattle than oil wells.  We live 45 minutes away from the closest Wal-Mart and McDonald's."  Capp is the oldest of our 3 children and comes from a very value-oriented family and close-knit community.  Sending Capp to Stanford has probably been one of the easiest decisions our family has ever reached.  Here are a FEW reasons we have been so pleased with Capp's decision. 

#1  We have been so amazed at the kindness and support shown to Capp and his fellow recruiting class by ALL of the upperclassmen on the team.  Their fellowship together is much like a big family of brothers and it has touched our hearts to see them welcome the new class into their ranks with such genuine enthusiasm.  

#2  The Stanford campus is unique because they do not have a "jock dorm".  Since the players live with the regular student body in dorms all over campus their freshman year, the players are able to form friendships outside of their athletic circle which will further their networking upon graduation.  

#3  The biggest majority of the recruits that signed with Stanford last year came for the same recruiting weekend.  They agreed they were all going to sign with Stanford that weekend.  They met the rest of their group at the spring football game.  They kept in touch regularly before they all went out for freshman practice.  Together as one unit, they entertained and awed the supporters at the freshmen dinner on the football field and cheered for each other's highlight clips.  They are all stars in their own rights, but have joined together to light up the Stanford campus.  It is not easy to go from Friday Night Hero to redshirt freshman, but these boys have sailed through it TOGETHER.  Watch for this class to blend in with the already talented and seasoned players to take this Stanford Cardinal Team to new heights.  The new recruiting class will do the same thing.  

#4  The parents of this recruiting class have also joined together well.  Since so many of us live so far away (Florida, Michigan, Georgia, TX, Montana, LA, CA, Washington, etc), we have relied on each other to "parent" all of the boys we could while we were there.  If we were at home on game day, one of the other set of parents would call before, during, or after the game to tell us they hugged our son's neck for us and took them to eat or shop.  We've called the other redshirt freshmen's rooms to find our own sons and where we found one, there were usually others.  Coy Wire's parents (and others) started the Stanford Football Parent's Association and it has become a valuable source of information.  The older boys' parents have been so generous with advice and helpful hints on how to do the "football player parent thing".  All you need to do is ask.

#5  The academic staff is absolutely the best and they offer every kind of academic support imaginable.  All of the boys worried about being able to "make their grades" at Stanford, but they are all doing fine!

#6  The Stanford tailgate fans have been most hospitable to this "trying to get it all figured out" group of redshirt parents.  We have crashed several table groups and appreciate the generosity and friendliness in which we have been greeted.  We will be bringing some homegrown Texas beverages and food to add to your refreshments next year.  Many thanks! 

#7  The Stanford Coaches, Assistants, Trainers, and office staff have all been wonderful. Ted Leland and his wife have always been perfectly charming (and we especially like the fact that they are partial to  :)  linebackers).  We wish ALL of the coaches that left the very best at that "other" school (except when we play them of course).  We appreciate Capp's main recruiter, Coach Buzz Preston, and thank him for the making that "hard-to-make", tearful, and heartfelt phone call to our family the day the story broke.  Capp's only comment after that news was that it was up to his redshirt class to make sure the recruits had good recruiting weekends. These are the guys they'll need to depend on to help them reach their goals.  The troops are ready! 

#8  We are excited along with Capp and the other players about Coach Buddy Teevens.  Capp called and said ALL of the players are pumped and ready to get to work with Coach Teevens and have confidence in him that he will hire outstanding assistants.  We all need to be patient and positive while they assemble the right combination of people to fill all of the vacated positions.

In conclusion, let us add that Capp calls home frequently and his calls have ALL been positive (not one down call since he went out last July and he was only home for 10 days at Christmas).  How could his calls be otherwise?  He's at the most prestigious academic university with a new and enthusiastic head coach (not forgetting to mention Coach Tip and Mr. Weightman, Mark).  He's surrounded by the most outstanding and multi-talented group of young men who also happen to be dedicated football players for the Stanford Cardinal.  What more could any parent want for their son?  We hope to meet you at the Spring game or next year as we follow Stanford.  Go Cardinal!


Dr. Mike Heitmann (#75 Eric Heitmann)

So why Stanford? My son like so many of the others on the team could have gone to any program in the country out of high school.  But he or we or whatever the case was chose Stanford.  There are a lot of reasons to do so and and be it known to one and all there has never been an instant of regret for having come to Stanford.

First of all the reputation that Stanford has attained for its academic excellence is incomparable.  For any recruit or his parents not to understand that are falling way short in their evaluation process.  That reputation was not easily attained nor maintained.  It is to give great credit to the generations that have preceeded my son at Stanford.  It is to the credit of the administrations prior to now, but most importantly to the graduates and alumni that have made sure that the value of their degree has appreciated .  To me as a parent, I am humbly thankful to you.  For selfish reasons alone it makes the time that my son has spent there more valuable than any other place in the country.

Every parent needs to know that the football aspect of their son's career is just one injury away from being over.  To not take that as a major factor in the evaluation process is very shortsighted on a parent's part.  The DEGREE from Stanford is the ultimate insurance policy against that misfortune.  And along the same lines, the recruit should know that the medical support staff that Stanford offers is the pinnacle of excellence.  I would like to publicly give my thanks to those that have helped keep my baby boy going (all 305 pounds of him).  This is an important factor.  All of these young men think they are bullet proof and invincible.  But they can break and get injured.  It is a comfort to know there are people there that can and will repair them.

As far as our experience with the actual football program,  NO COMPLAINTS!!!  The only promise Tyrone Willingham made to us four years ago was that our son would get an excellent education and if he played to his potential, honors would befall him.  That is all he would guarantee.  I asked how long he planned to stay at Stanford point blank at the table one night and his response was that he currently had no intentions of leaving.  In my profession that is known as a "doctor answer".  That means there is wiggle room. It means I am here for now,  but opportunities might arise that will have to be evaluated in the future.  It was as honest an answer as he could reasonably have given.

Parents should know that, yes, you are coming because of a head coach.  But he is just a part of the equation.  You should be coming because of the program.  The program transcends the head coach or the position coach (of which there have been four in four years in our case).  The program is what is important and the people behind the program.  All of those unsung heroes in the coach's office, the equipment managers, the trainers, the medical staff, they are the program's blood and guts.

But last and not least is the Stanford Community.  YOU are what makes the word STANFORD so special. So forever more that name is affixed to my son's:  Eric Heitmann - Stanford.

Thanks to you all.  It has been an enjoyable and rewarding experience.


Brent Chambers (#67 Kirk Chambers)

We had several opportunities to visit various universities as our son was recruited. I would just like to touch on a few of the things that made the trip to Stanford so special for us and ultimately led to our son's choice to come to "The Farm."

We felt that Stanford not only introduced us to the football program, but to the entire university family. Stanford was the only university we visited where it seemed to be almost expected that the parents be a part of the trip. How graciously we were treated, but at the same time great care was made so that the visit was truly for our son. At various dinners that we attended, place cards always directed us to where we should sit. Great care was made in arranging for our son to sit with and meet people who would play an important part in his Stanford education. We were not only guests in the athletic department, we were also hosted at the Faculty Club. We were introduced to faculty members in whose programs our son had an interest, it became evident that the faculty members we met had taken the time to become acquainted with our son's interests. I particularly remember one professor congratulating our son for attaining the rank of eagle scout and then following up by asking him some questions about his high school and community activities outside of football.

In the evening as the recruits were hosted by teammates, we as parents were invited in groups of 4 or 6 as dinner guests to the homes of several professors. What a pleasant evening we had at Prof. Bob Simoni's home. Even today we look forward to seeing him at Stanford activities. He and his wife were so charming and friendly and we could see that our son would be instructed by very fine people, people who not only were experts in their fields, but caring individuals who would have a genuine interest in our son not only as an athlete, but also as a student.

Yes, the coaching staff and their interest in our son did play a big role, but we were equally impressed by the invigorating, positive atmosphere that we experienced from the entire university family. We have discovered through the years that this great environment was not the creation of some great PR person in the football office. Stanford has truly proven to be the great university that we were so graciously introduced to through our son's visit.

Our son has really enjoyed his football experience at Stanford, but the fine education that he is receiving will become even more important than the football experiences as the years go by. In accepting an invitation to attend Stanford, he signed not to play football for a specific coach or at a specific position, in reality he made a decision that will lead to positive lifelong benefits.

We would advise any prospective player and his parents to carefully weigh the advantages of a football career as well as an educational adventure on "The Farm."


Sabrina Lovelady (#91 Michael Lovelady)

I know literally nothing about football, sports programs or the particulars of any one Division I program, but I do know my son. My son and his future were my only concern during the recruiting process. Recruiting is hard on families: the possibilities seem endless; everyone loves your son; according to the coaches, he is the greatest. What a heady experience! My son is a wonderful football player, but even more so, he is a wonderful young man that needs the best opportunities to complete his arduous journey toward manhood. Stanford has proven, from the moment we stepped on campus, that my faith in them was justified. Trust me, I loved TW and the staff, but more importantly, I loved the fact that his education would not be compromised - that he is regarded as more than just a player.

Parents, trust your instincts. My son was ready to commit after every visit, he loved every coach, every program, every campus we visited. It took all my "mama" powers to persuade him to look beyond the great parties, coaches and other heady incentives (cute girls) to more practical matters. What really matters is if he would still feel excited about being at the university during those long days after football season ends, or heaven forbid, if he had to sit out due to injury. (I kept reminding my son we are from TEXAS, you hate the cold !) Yes, the coaching staff matters, but what really matters is that despite the upheaval of the past several weeks, my son could not wait to go back to Stanford. That is what I wanted for my only child. Football glory will be his, but in the process there is a lot he needs to learn about himself and his capabilities. I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that Stanford will provide him those opportunities.


Ron & Shawna Blackhurst (#55 Cooper Blackhurst)

We have watched with astonishment and incredulity the happenings of the past few days and weeks.  It seemed as though everything was in an uproar and that everything was unsettled.  We were concerned for the program and the future, and we were very concerned for our son and for his future at Stanford.  We have now been able to see that there is truly someone at the helm who knows how to take charge and make decisions in the best interest of the University, the athletic program, and the football team.  Ted Leland is that man and we salute him and congratulate him for his strength and courage under fire.  We are as excited about the football program at Stanford as we have ever been and know that there is still the feeling of solidarity to which we have become accustomed.  We appreciate and applaud the choice of coach Teevens and will support him and his new program with all our hearts. Although we will miss Coach Willingham and his staff, we feel confident that the Stanford football team will continue its tradition of excellence.


Omobola Wusu (#46 Timi Wusu)

In all things, we should give praise to God. We thank God for these children of ours that are precious gifts from God. We thank God for the gathering of these wonderful children to this wonderful place called Stanford. We also thank God for all those people that have influenced them from elementary to this point in their lives, and for more people to come in the future.

Definitely, Tyrone Williingham has done his part. He had made his own mark on them. To that, we should cheer for him. For his leaving, we should rejoice with him because this is a great chance for him. To us, it is an abrupt change. To him, it is a miraculous blessing!

I was at the Football Banquet for the graduating seniors and other players. Tyrone and his colleagues came back to honor our children. I was there to witness it.

This is a new chapter in our kids' lives, and we thank God for bringing more positive individuals to their lives. At the Banquet, I asked most of the players about their new coach. In fact, each and every one answered me with big bright smiles in their faces -- "He is very good. We love him." That's what really matters. All things work together for good to them that love God.

Welcome Coach Buddy Teevens to the wonderful Stanford family!


Jeri Lee (#94 Austin Lee)

I just finished reading the heartfelt letters from parents of Stanford football players.  I found my own sentiments echoed over and over.  There have been nothing but positives about Austin's 5 years at Stanford.  He has the most wonderful friends whom I feel are now my "other sons."  I cried my eyes out at the banquet, not for the end of Austin's career at Stanford, which was wonderful for him and us, but for the kids we love that I wouldn't be seeing, and the coaches we grew to love who were moving far away.

We have several friends who have sons who just finished up their football careers at other universities, and they have not had an experience anything like ours at Stanford.  Their sons had to play with injuries that wouldn't be allowed on the field at Stanford.  The coaches were not friendly to parents and the boys were just players, not treated personally, with their feelings considered.  Some will not graduate from these other programs, and the football program cares little after the years of eligibility are over.  That simply does not happen at Stanford.  Also, as a coach said at the banquet, "There are no four a.m. calls at home when you coach at Stanford."  That means a lot to me as a parent.  The boys really stick together and take care of each other.  They will remain life-long friends and their coaches will always be there for them, even if they are no longer on the Farm.

What better testimony can we give the Stanford football program than our well educated, well rounded, successful sons.  They will always be a credit to the university and to their families.  It just doesn't happen in the other institutions like it happens at Stanford.  We are so glad Austin chose Stanford, and that we were allowed the privilege to tag along for the ride!

 

If you are a parent or relative of a Stanford football student-athlete, and would like to contribute your comments to this collection, please email to me97@thebootleg.com

 


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