The news broke this week, but it was the previous Wednesday (Aug. 24) when Bert McBride gave his verbal commitment to attend Stanford. As a team captain, the offensive lineman at Armwood High School did not want cause a disruption in the week leading up to his senior season opener.
"We had a very big game week, and I didn't want any distractions with the media," he explains. "I asked the Stanford coaches not to say anything to my coaches that week."
In that first game of Seffner (Fla.) Armwood's 2005 season, the two-time defending Florida 4A state champions met Hillsborough in what Tampa football observers expected to be a colossal clash. The game between the #1-ranked and #5-ranked 4A teams in the state lived up to expectations. In the final minute, McBride and the Hawks scored what looked to be the tying touchdown before the PAT failed. Armwood lost 20-21, leaving seven points on the field with the missed extra point and a pair of field goals.
"It will be one helluva motivator for the rest of the year. You can bank on that," says a fiery McBride of the opening loss.
The Armwood captain seems to know what he is talking about. Last night the Hawks took the field for their second game of the season and put a big hurt on Durant, 44-0. While there will be no repeat of last year's 14-0 final record, McBride's men are back on track.
"It was a good game. We played really well. We passed a bit more than we generally do, and our quarterbacks and receivers had a great night," he critiques. "Unfortunately, we had a few too many penalties. We even had one drive that was over 120 yards because of penalties."
A consummate coach on the field, McBride will not tolerate those mistakes from his teammates. The 6'3" 290-pound road grader is an intensity, high-energy player with a lot of toughness and not much nonsense.
"I try to bring everything I have to the field and get to my block," he offers.
When Stanford offered McBride this summer, Cardinal head coach Walt Harris told McBride that his intensity was one of the things Stanford liked in him. A review of the lineman's junior film also reveals great footwork. He pulls quickly and punishes defenders while always playing with a low pad level. McBride comes off the ball hard, and he brings it consistently.
But it may have been an in-person evaluation this summer when Bert McBride came to visit Stanford unofficially that finally tipped the scales in favor of an offer. The Floridian had tripped once before to The Farm in the summer of 2004 after his 10th grade year, but a year later he showed up with a more physically imposing form at 287 pounds.
"I played at about 265 pounds last season. I'm a lot bigger now," he reports. "I think they liked that."
While McBride's trip out West was his furthest travel of this summer, it was not his only unofficial recruiting visit. He also hit Vanderbilt, Boston College, Harvard and Princeton. The theme running through that school list is easy to see.
"I wanted to get the best education with the best football I could find," McBride maintains. "Once Stanford offered, I didn't see the point in holding out any longer."
McBride held offers from Stanford, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss - plus the equivalent in aid and admission from Harvard and Princeton. The Tampa Tribune reported incorrectly that Boston College had extended an offer. "They just recruited me really hard," McBride says.
The oddball of the group is Ole Miss, led by new head coach and former USC assistant Ed Orgeron. The Rebels liked what they saw in McBride, though the student-athlete says he could not in good faith reciprocate the interest.
"I never really considered Ole Miss," he admits. "They basically don't have the same academics my favorites offer me."
When emphasizing academics in a school choice, two schools in the South typically stand on the tip of a recruit's lips. But McBride was willing to consider only one of them.
"I went to Vanderbilt a week or so after Stanford, and I enjoyed it there. I liked the coaches and the players," he praises. "The campus didn't feel right to me the way Stanford did, though. I like how Stanford isn't inside a big city. It's removed but still close to San Francisco. Vanderbilt seemed crunched into Nashville - it seemed claustrophobic."
While the campus fit ultimately nudged the Cardinal ahead of the Commodores, there was not as much consideration given to the Duke Blue Devils.
"I thought about it, but my mom went to Wake Forest and she might have killed me if I had gone there," he laughs. "Actually, I've been up there. My grandparents live around there. The campus didn't feel right. The people are a little too stuck up."
"This whole thing comes down to how you feel," McBride offers. "When you are trying to distinguish between schools with great academics, it comes down to fit - the personal factors."
The Sunshine State standout has had two visits to measure Stanford up to his standards.
"The first time I was a 10th grader, and I went with my family. We were checking out colleges - not even for football - and decided to check it out. I really liked the campus," he recalls. "This summer was more of a football visit. I really enjoyed the new staff, and I still loved the campus."
Bert McBride did not attend any combines or any camps this past off-season, so his profile on the recruiting radar is a faint blip. But his performances on the field this fall will be the measuring stick by which he measures himself. In Armwood's preseason exhibition game against Chamberlain, a 5A school, McBride recorded 18 pancakes. Last night he came close to double figures, despite an offense that passed heavily. In the loss to Hillsborough, McBride pancaked Leslie Stirrups, one of the top two or three defensive tackles in Florida.
We will work to bring you highlight video of Bert McBride, so that Cardinal fans can get a good look at their future offensive guard. The Armwood athlete is the first interior line commit in Stanford's last two classes, though the second offensive lineman, joining Colorado tackle John Kyed.
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