Big Game weekend was not the first time for Alex Loukas to visit Stanford. The Deerfield (Ill.) quarterback attended the Cardinal's overnight football camp in late June, which gave him his first up-close exposure to Walt Harris as a football coach. It also netted Loukas the first and only scholarship offer handed out by Harris to a quarterback in the 2006 recruiting class. From that time forward, Stanford was the frontrunner for Loukas' services. When the 6'4" slinger student-athlete had his admissions application accepted by Stanford earlier this month, it paved the way for his imminent verbal commitment. We were unsurprised, then, that Loukas pulled the trigger while in the middle of his official visit at The Farm.
"When I first arrived, I went to talk to the coaches and players. That helped solidify some things for me," Loukas explains. "Right after the game, I knew that Stanford was where I wanted to go. I thought about it, and then I committed that night."
On that day, Loukas watched several things about Stanford up-close and personal that he should not have enjoyed. The Cardinal were handled in the second half of their annual rivalry game, ending in a 27-3 decisive defeat. The offense never reached the endzone. The starting quarterback was (again) knocked out of the ballgame.
These are not qualities in a team that endears one to a quarterback recruit. Yet Loukas walked away from Stanford Stadium that Saturday evening more sure than at any time in his life that he wanted to be a Cardinal. Go figure.
"They had a ton of injuries that really hurt them," the recruit offers in explanation of the Big Game defeat and performance. "Coach Harris is going to turn around the program. He already has turned them around this year. There were a couple more games they could have won."
At the center of Loukas' commitment decision was Walt Harris, who is the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator as well as head coach at Stanford.
"I talked to the players Friday night, and they all said that they have a lot of confidence in [Harris]," Loukas says. "He is aggressive but gets the most out of you. I like being pushed. I want a coach who can push me and get the most out of me."
One particularly credible conversation for Loukas came when he spoke with redshirt freshman quarterback Garrett Moore.
"He said that you can tell how Trent Edwards has gotten a lot better, and a lot of that has to do with Coach Harris. He just coaches every part of your game and really raises your ability," the recruit recalls. "He demands a lot out of you, but that's a good thing. He gets the most out of you because he wants you do do everything well. And I could totally see that when I camped there."
A difficulty that often comes in hosting a recruit for an official visit during the season is finding a player host who is not engrossed in game preparation. One superstar offensive player was quite available during Big Game weekend, however: junior wide receiver Evan Moore.
"He was great," Loukas says of his host. "We hung out at his apartment and met some of the basketball players. He talked about Stanford and how much he enjoys being there."
The next Cardinal quarterback played "host" a little himself that Saturday evening, with a number of unofficial visitors on campus. Loukas had the chance to meet Andrew Phillips and John Kyed, a pair of fellow commits who play on the offensive line. Wide receiver commit Marcus Rance was also in town. Loukas delivered his recruiting pitch to uncommitted players in attendance, including offensive guard Sione Fua and wide receiver Richard Sherman.
"It's good to have a core," Loukas comments on the concentration of offensive players gathered that weekend, some already committed and others on the way. "I told Coach Harris now that I'm committed, I'm ready to do some recruiting. I tried to do my best to talk to everyone."
"The driving force for me and my decision was Coach Harris. He's a great quarterbacks coach, which he has shown in the past," the new Cardinal commit offers of his own decision. "Stanford has good weather, too. It was sunny and wonderful there, but it's snowing here now. And like the letters kept saying: it's a 40-year decision, not a four-year decision. Plus they play great competition every year. The new stadium is going to be great. It was a lot of things combined."
With Loukas' senior season behind him, and now his official visit and college commitment have passed as well, the future Cardinal quarterback has his sights set ahead.
"Coach Harris said that I need to get in the weight room and put on a little more weight," the 195-pound slinger says. "I want to work out and get faster and bigger this off-season. I haven't decided yet what I'm doing about tennis, but I'm leaning toward not playing."
Loukas is a talented tennis player who could possibly have reached The Farm by way of the hardcourt, had he not decided his freshman year of high school to focus on football. Despite a diminishing time commitment to his groundstrokes, Loukas delivered a championship season for Deerfield High School last spring with Illinois state titles for his team and in doubles. The two-sport standout could corral still more hardware for his trophy case this coming spring, but the expectation he has for his football future - as well as that of Walt Harris for him - will weigh heavily.
"Coach Harris things I have a pretty good chance to get some rep's in practice next year and to travel with the team," Loukas relays.
Recruiting classes are measured first and foremost by the quarterback(s) landed. Alex Loukas does not have prep All-American honors draped over him, but he did net scholarship offers from Northwestern, Illinois, Purdue and Vanderbilt - among others. Maybe the more important measure is the fact that Walt Harris hand-picked Loukas above every other signal caller in the nation that he evaluated this year, handing Loukas the one and only Stanford quarterback scholarship in the 2006 class. Harris' track record of evaluating and developing quarterbacks is unquestioned, which is why Loukas' commitment is such a celebratory event for the Cardinal. Walt Harris got his guy, and that gets us excited for the future at "Quarterback U."
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