You thought the books were just about closed on Stanford's 2005 recruiting class. There remains the open-ended saga of Erik Lorig, which might soon conclude given that April 1 is the end of the nearly two-month window in which prospective student-athletes can sign a National Letter of Intent. But there has been another story in Southern California, which has moved much more quietly.
We last reported to you in January on the story of inside linebacker Josh Catron from Torrance High School in Torrance, Calif. Catron had been identified by the Cardinal coaches in the fall, offered a scholarship late in his senior season. With a 1420 SAT and 4.3 GPA and the highest of interest in Stanford, his looked like a story that would conclude as soon as it had started. But there were some medical concerns on the Cardinal's part, regarding some back troubles for Catron. That threw up a red flag, and Stanford told the 6'1" 215-pound recruit that he needed to obtain an MRI of his back for closer scrutiny by the Stanford medical staff.
"It showed a had a slightly bulging disc on one vertebrae," Catron discloses. "Stanford had guys in the past with some medical problems in high school and ended up not being able to play in college. They were worried that could happen to me, as well."
And so it appeared that the Cardinal and Catron would part ways. The Torrance High senior took four official visits, including his January 7 trip to The Farm, with the other three taking him to Ivy League schools. His favorite among those non-scholarship options was Penn, and he gave them a non-binding commitment once the Stanford scenario disintegrated. However, without a scholarship in the offing, nothing has him bound yet to the Quakers. With a slim hope and some wiggle room, Catron went back to the Card and made a plea for an opportunity to play football in the Pac-10.
According to Catron, the Stanford coaches had another round of discussions on his case, this time involving administrators all the way up to Athletic Director Ted Leland. The word came back in late February that the Cardinal would bring him on board, under certain restrictions.
"According to the coaches, they have a spot for me in the fall," he shares. "I get the next scholarship that opens up. There is not one available right now, and I might have to wait past the season this fall. The decided with the AD to give a spot to me. I think they feel I'll be alright."
While Catron could be paying his own way for the autumn quarter, he is excited. "It's alright if I don't have the scholarship before I get there. It's better than paying four years," he laughs.
The additional catch regards his admissions status. Catron was viewed through a scholarship lens when he was offered and then later admitted, but now that he would matriculate in a non-scholarship capacity in September, that changes the game. The Stanford Admissions Office reviews the applications of scholarship and non-scholarship prospective student-athletes differently. In short, the admissions standards and timeline applied toward the football program and other sports are kept in check beyond the number of Letters of Intent they will have signed in a given year. That keeps student-athlete standards from creeping into the remainder of the student body.
Catron would now be considered a non-scholarship member of the 2005 freshman class at Stanford, so he has to wait for the appropriate admissions acceptance to come to his mailbox this spring.
"I'm still waiting on the paperwork. I have to get an admissions statement, and that usually comes in April for all the regular students," he explains.
"They have said I've been deemed admissable," Catron adds, in commenting on the confidence he has drawn from discussions with Stanford personnel. "But you never know until it happens."
If admitted, Catron would be the final piece to the defensive puzzle for Stanford in the 2005 class. Though they loaded up at all the defensive line and defensive backfield positions, as well as outside linebacker, the Cardinal corralled just one inside linebacker in Fred Campbell. The stout New Yorker is slated to play the "Mike" inside linebacker position, but nobody is penciled to play the "Will" ILB spot. Catron would likely play that position, with an outside possibility of fullback.
This story could end up being good news for both Stanford and Catron, but there would be a loser back East. "As of now I'm supposed to be going to Penn, but if Stanford gives me a scholarship, I'll go to Stanford," he says. "I did commit to Penn, but with an Ivy League school, that is not a done deal until I have to send in my admissions acceptance card at the end of April."
As in all things recruiting, there are surprises around every corner. The late addition of Josh Catron to the 2005 Cardinal recruiting class was unexpected, but could pay big dividends for Stanford down the line. The casual fan might downgrade the value of a non-scholarship arrival this fall, but if he stays healthy, Catron could prove to be a hidden gem. The circumstances are different, but Stanford did quite well with another scholarship-level linebacker/fullback who committed to a delayed Stanford scholarship. Five years later, Jared Newberry is now just a month away from being selected in the NFL Draft. If the Torrance talent is even three-quarters the player for the Cardinal that Newberry was, his story will also be hailed as a success.
We will check back with Catron in April to get the final segment of his saga, centering around an admissions envelope in his mailbox. Stay tuned for the conclusion to his intriguing story.
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