People look at the disappointments and uneven play that Stanford has had on offense, and whether it is a cause or an effect, there is the notion out there that Stanford does not have the athletes at these offensive skill positions like other places in the Pac-10. Are you, Mark Bradford and Trent Edwards in better condition and are better athletes than people appreciate?
"The whole thing about being good athletes comes from what we do on the field. When people say that, I let it go in one ear and out the other. Show me a team in the Pac-10 that is as strong as a lot of the guys on this team. Then show me a team that has four or five guys that run in the four-threes. All that kind of stuff comes from not winning games. There have been times we haven't been as deep as in the past, but that's just the way it is. To answer your question, athletically, if you look at all the starters at each skill position, it's hard to find starters at other schools at each skill position that are that much better athletes. I just flat out disagree with that. I know that comes from the fact that we have underachieved and not won football games. That's where that comes from."
"Winning solves everything. Trent and I have talked about that since my sophomore year. Any problem that we have in this program – like May, if we want to miss a workout to go out of town, Coach [Ron] Forbes is not happy and we can tell he's not happy about it, so we don't go. Winning solves everything. If we win 12 or 13 games, then it's: 'You guys want to go on vacation, you go on vacation.' A lot of stuff, and little rumors or this and that, have started from the fact that we have struggled. And there is no better way to solve that than to win football games."
Do you think you are going to surprise people with your strength and speed? Nobody in the Pac-10, actually, has seen you for over a season.
"No, they haven't. My weight is seven pounds less than it was last year, but I'm a lot stronger. A lot stronger. My speed probably cut off over a tenth of a second – almost two-tenths of a second. Compared to watching film of my sophomore year, and I'm just being honest, it's like a whole different player. You grow athletically under the right strength & conditioning program, which I think we have. I'm not trying to issue a warning to the whole Pac-10, but if they try to remember what happened sophomore year and have a scheme based on that, they're going to be in trouble. Especially because Mark has gotten a lot better and faster, too."
"My bench press is more than it was last year. A lot of my supplemental lifts are more because I'm stronger. Any weight that I have lost is not weight that I wouldn't want to lose. It's just extra weight that I obviously didn't need if I lost it. If I needed it, I probably wouldn't have lost it because I didn't stop lifting. I didn't stop eating. I'm just eating the right way and lifting real hard."
And now you have added yoga for flexibility training. How has that been?
"I feel good. I feel very good with my body... I do yoga four days a week for about an hour-fifteen each session. It's hell. It's very hard. It's very difficult. I'm drenched when I'm done because the room is pretty warm. It's very difficult, but it's worth it. I hate going, but when I'm done, I'm happy I went."
"That injury happened and forced me to take care of my body in the right way, which was a good thing in the end. I don't know if I had done yoga every day last year if that would have prevented me from getting hurt."
"Number one, the more flexible you are, the more different directions that you can fall. I can fall and my leg can snap up over my head, and it won't bother me. On the flip side, the more flexible you are, loosening up the hips and hamstrings and all in your legs, you can get lower. When I catch the ball on the sideline and turn up the field, the more flexible I am, the lower I can get. I guess you could say that could avoid injury, too. You don't want to be high when running on the sideline. On your routes, too, you can be a little more elusive. There is nothing good on the football field that comes from being stiff, simply put."
Where is your body now, in the context of where you were at this time last year?
"I went through all of the spring. Coach [Tucker] Waugh even said before the spring, 'If there are certain things that you don't want to do, or certain days you are not feeling good, let us know and we'll put you in uppers or you won't hit.' It was important to me to go through each day and not sit out of anything, to give myself the confidence that it's fine. Take a couple hits and get tackled a couple awkward hits and know that I'm fine."
"One of the nice things about this injury is that with a shoulder, you're cautious because you think it might come back out. As far as the hip goes, I'm not running down the field and worried that my leg is going to pop out. You have to fall the same way for this thing to come back out... If this thing was a risk where it could come out again when I get hit, then I shouldn't be out on the football field because that's pretty serious. That's over."
Are you at the peak condition you could be today, or are you still a playing a little bit of catch-up because of lifts or things you could not do during the winter?
"No. I went through all the runs in the winter and most of the lifts. We picked it up in May, and I didn't miss one thing in May. Then June back in Southern California was tough – very tough. I went hard – really hard. Just like I did last year, except probably harder. I feel like I'm ahead of where I was last year. It's fine. I'm not at risk at all. I'm not even thinking about it, at all. Even when I'm training – 'Oh, I hope this is going to feel good tomorrow' – I don't have that feeling anymore."
Obviously you have the chance with what this offense can do and with the guys you are playing to have such an unbelievable year that you could be ready to come out. You're prepared academically to make the jump if appropriate. In your mind, then, how do you approach this season? Can you approach it as a 'contract year' like Trent says? Or do you keep remembering in your mind that you have another year after this, and in that year, you might be able to put up the most dominant numbers because Mark will be gone and you're the show?
"I think the first thing I think about is the fact that those two guys are seniors, and they're two of my best friends. A lot of these offensive guys are my really good friends... On the flip side, it is my redshirt junior year. I missed all of last season. People kind of forget about you when you sit out a whole year. That's just kind of the way it is. I do want to play in the NFL; that's my goal. I want to be a high pick; that's my goal. I know what I do this year might have a big bearing on that. Is he still healthy? Can he get through a whole year healthy? As far as that stuff goes, yeah, this is very important to me to have a year because of that."
"If people ask me, 'So you're thinking about leaving?' the first thing I think about is playing the way I know I can play, fulfilling my own expectations, and then taking this team to a bowl game with the rest of the seniors. If I do all that I know I can do, then all the rest of that stuff will take care of itself. I can't control that. All I can do is go out and play, win games and go to a bowl game. Then if they want me, then they want me. That's the way I look at it. I could see it being very frustrating and even a letdown to sit here and say that I have to have a great year and I have to get drafted high. If that is your only goal, then you're going to get disappointed. In my opinion, that kind of stuff just comes."
"You hear about all these guys who have a great year with their team and a great season, then they get drafted and say that they're 'living a dream.' That stuff just happens when the season is over. That takes care of itself. That's something I would love to do. That's my dream. But right now, my first dream is to be part of a winning team. I was watching the NBA Finals and the way those guys were celebrating after winning a championship. My dream in college is to get to that point with this team where we can celebrate after having the season that we expected of ourselves, and maybe even surpass our expectations. I haven't even really celebrated with these guys yet. I know last year they won a couple games that were close, but I wasn't even there because they were away. My sophomore year, I don't think we won any games that we didn't think we should have won. There wasn't one that was like a big win."
"I haven't even really had a chance to celebrate with these guys yet. There is so much that I want to do in college still – so much that I want to be a part of. I'm not saying that can't all be done in one year because I think it can. Most of the stuff I have in mind can all be done in one year. I don't want to look forward that far yet. Plus, I'm a little superstitious. To say, 'Yeah, if I have a good year I'm going to go to the NFL,' that is just setting yourself up for criticism. There is nobody that believes more than me that I'm going to have a good year, but at the same time if I come out and struggle, people are going to be like, 'That guy said he was going to the NFL next year.' It's more about my current goals, and I think the ones down the road will come. That's their job to scout out talent and see what they like. I'm going to do everything I can to make sure they like me, and we'll see what happens."
"When you take a month off from football in June - not a month off from conditioning, but from football with your quarterback and your team - you come back a little bit rusty. You haven't been around it for a while. Trent throwing the ball to you and stuff like that. At the beginning of July, you feel like, 'We have some work to do.' But after four weeks of going pretty hard and staying after it and working extra on certain things, I think we ended pretty good. I really do. I think it's the hardest that me and Mark together have worked ever since we have been out here in July. Each lift, we probably stayed 45 minutes after just get extra strength. Honest to God, I have never seen Mark work so hard in the off-season. Whether it's because Coach [Walt] Harris wasn't happy with him in the spring, or whether it's because this is his final season, I don't really care. All I know is that he's ready to go."
"There is a lot more urgency from guys. We know that a lot of this is on our shoulders. I think everyone knows how good Trent is, and a lot of people have high expectations for him this year. Trent doesn't make many mistakes, really. If he doesn't produce the way he is supposed to, me and Mark are going to look at that like it's our fault. We have everything in place for Trent to have a great year, and for us to have a great year. If he doesn't produce, it's our fault. We're not catching the ball. We're not getting open. We're not doing something right. A lot of it, and Coach may say something different, but a lot of our success will rely on Mark's and my shoulders. We'll take every bit of it."
I know he hasn't done anything in pads yet, but what is the one thing that makes you most excited about Richard Sherman, and what is the one thing he really needs to address during camp to give him a chance to contribute this fall?
"I am excited - I am very excited - just by the way he runs. That kid can run by people. He is going to be deadly in the slot because if you put a safety on him, he'll run right by him. Number two is hard to tell because we haven't put pads on him yet, like you said. Maybe just the general things that a freshman struggles with, like making sure that he is catching the ball with his hands and locking it up with his hands. There were some times he would go up and trap it, and if he takes a hit, he is not going to catch that. He'll learn once we get in camp and he starts taking some physical hits. When you go and get the ball with your hands, which is what he should do, lock that thing up with your hands. Not like a soft catch."
"But it has been really encouraging to see him come in and work hard to establish himself. By the end of July, he knew everything we were calling in the huddle. We weren't calling everything, but he knew everything we were calling. That shows you that he is a quick learner. I think that he's going to be pretty fun to watch. I'm interested to see how he comes along during camp. There are no guarantees with freshmen when you put the pads on, but I'm looking forward to seeing how he does."
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