Stanford this past weekend hosted its first official visitor of the 2007 football recruiting class. Kellen Kiilsgaard made his way down to The Farm from Auburn (Wash.). The four-star quarterback/athlete recruit recently narrowed his school list to four finalists, and this Stanford official visit was his fourth and final trip toward completing his puzzle. Kiilsgaard was accompanied by two enthusiastic parents for a full weekend on The Farm that kicked off Friday afternoon.
"On Friday we got there and went to watch the team practice," Kiilsgaard begins. "After practice, we had the team meal with the team at the hotel. I got to spend time after that with the group of quarterbacks - all of them on the travel team. My host that night was Marcus Rance, a freshman receiver."
"On Saturday, I woke up with the team," he continues. "At breakfast I met the with the Athletic Director. I also met with a number of academic officers. I can't remember them all, but one was the freshman dean of admissions. At the stadium, I watched the game. I went out to dinner after that with Coach [Walt] Harris, Coach [A.J.] Christoff, Coach [Dave] Tipton and Coach [Mark] Marquess - the baseball head coach. Tavita Pritchard was my host, and I hung out with him that night. We've been friends for a while, and his high school is like 20 minutes from mine. We met at Young Life and went to Malibu one summer, which is a Young Life camp up in Canada. It was great to spend time with him."
One item you may have expected to see in Kiilsgaard's weekend itinerary review was a stop into a Stanford classroom on Friday. He tells us that he already enjoyed that experience, however, during an unofficial visit he took during the spring. He was able to sit in with Pritchard for an inside look at classes on the Cardinal campus.
"He really stressed that he and Stanford are really committed to bring football back up to the level it has been," Kiilsgaard recalls. "That was a big thing on the weekend. People at Stanford really care about football and want to win. Obviously, the institution of Stanford is incredible and respected all over the world. Their commitment to success is in athletics, too, and they want to be the best."
Despite a terribly disappointing performance at Stanford Stadium on Saturday, Kiilsgaard sings surprisingly high praise for the visit experience.
"The highlight of the trip was definitely that I spent quality time with such quality people," Kiilsgaard comments. "I was really impressed. My overall impression was that Stanford has an overall quality of guys. They were really friendly, really easy to get along with and really appreciative that I came down for the trip."
That being said, it is an inescapable truth that the football performance and game experience had to trail what he saw three of the four previous weekends at his other finalists. Stanford may want to win, but they are yet to do so in this most troubled of seasons in recent memory. Kiilsgaard watched the Cardinal lose its last blue chip offensive talent to injury in the first quarter, when quarterback Trent Edwards went down, and then struggle the rest of the way in a 20-7 loss to a team at the bottom of the Pac-10. How did those two and a half hours affect him?
"The atmosphere and performance did not quite stack up with the others I have seen, but I put the whole situation in perspective," the recruit replies. "I didn't expect to see the same thing. This is a young team hurt by injuries. There is a lot of young talent on the team, and they will get better."
One aspect that helped improve the gameday experience was Stanford Baseball head coach Mark Marquess sitting in the stands with Kiilsgaard's parents for the game. The two-sport recruit also stopped by Sunken Diamond on Friday for a quick glimpse of a fall ball intrasquad game, and he mentioned that Marquess joined the family and football coaches at dinner Saturday night.
Such a significant baseball component to Kiilsgaard's official visit weekend might surprise you. Indeed, the seriousness of pursuit by Stanford Baseball for Kiilsgaard is one of the lesser known stories in Stanford recruiting this year. Marquess made an in-home visit in September to the Auburn household and for a second straight year has all of his outfield eggs in the basket of a two-sport football recruit.
"Their interest is very high," Kiilsgaard says of Stanford Baseball. "Coach Marquess already visited me at my home about a month ago when they were in that part of the recruiting period. He is really interested and told me that even if I didn't play football, I would be their only outfield recruit. I'm the only outfielder they are pursuing and the only one they want to sign."
The baseball angle was a big pull for Toby Gerhart to go to Stanford last year, citing Marquess' high interest as well as demonstrated experience with two-sport athletes. Kiilsgaard is similarly in a situation where Stanford is working the hardest to bring him onto the baseball diamond, but the effect it has on him will not be as pronounced. Gerhart eliminated early any programs that did not tell him he could play both sports, while Kiilsgaard has in his final four a school who dropped baseball 26 years ago - Oregon.
"With the baseball situation - football is clearly my priority," Kiilsgaard continues. "Baseball is not what will bring me to a school. The football program and the school will be the basis for my decision. But it's definitely not a negative to be recruited for baseball. That would be great if that works out for me in college."
Another question on the table for Kiilsgaard in his Cardinal recruitment is the position he could play for Stanford. He explains that what we originally knew to be true of Stanford's intentions has changed this fall.
"When I was first offered, it was at safety," he says. "Then about a month ago, I got a call from Coach Harris. He had reexamined me and said that they wanted me to play quarterback. This weekend was totally for me at quarterback. He made it clear that he is confident in me as a quarterback. If that doesn't work out, he is also confident in how much I can help on defense."
Much has been reported on the various positions and promises made by Kiilsgaard's suitors. And as with all things related to recruiting, it is difficult to parse how much is truth and how much is fiction. What we do know is that the talented two-way athlete is excited about having his first crack at quarterback with Stanford.
"It's a big position for me," Kiilsgaard comments. "I don't have a preference where I play because I can be comfortable on both sides of the ball. But I would like the chance and opportunity to see if I can play quarterback first."
In a nutshell, this is a confident kid who simply does not want to be told he cannot have the chance to prove himself at quarterback. Just as Kiilsgaard embraces that opportunity, so too has he kept his fingers crossed on gaining admission to Stanford. Whether or not he ultimately selects the Cardinal versus the Huskies, Ducks and Bears, it again is a choice he would rather have available to him.
Recently he learned that Stanford was indeed an unrestricted opportunity for his college decision, when the Cardinal coaches called him to share the news of his admissions application acceptance.
"I've already been accepted. I heard last week," Kiilsgaard shares. "It was exciting because that was a huge goal for me. I'm proud to be accepted to Stanford. That was a priority for me, and I worked hard on the application."
With his four official visits to his four finalists in the books, some may expect an imminent announcement from the Auburn athlete on his college commitment. Don't hold your breath, however. There is little more work to be done in his information gathering, but there first and foremost remains a priority on wrapping his senior season. The undefeated (7-0) Trojans are marching toward a Class 3A state title and in less than two weeks will play their regular season finale rivalry game against Auburn Riverside (6-1).
"I have to sit down with my family to talk about things," Kiilsgaard says. "At this point, there isn't anything else tangible that we can do to bring a final decision. I'm not in a rush, and it could be in the next couple weeks to next couple months."
With that curtain of uncertainty surrounding the timeline for his decision, is there at least anything he can say about how Stanford's prospects changed - for better or for worse - after the weekend's official visit?
"I came in with the mindset that the schools were even, and I did want to give everyone an open shot. I wanted to stay open-minded," Kiilsgaard offers. "I felt that even though the game didn't go very well, it was a very quality visit. Stanford is in it right now with the other three because of the quality of the people they have and the quality of football talent in the young classes. I was really impressed and really enjoyed it."
The Evergreen State standout athlete says he will not name favorites among his final four. There will be no ranking of where Stanford or any of the schools stack up. The next time you hear him separate one school from the other three will be when he announces his college decision. He is adamant, however, that the Cardinal are in the mix. As indirect evidence, he trimmed Arizona State from what had been a final five and declined taking an official visit to Tempe. Despite Stanford's travails on the field this fall and despite already having taken an unofficial visit, he scheduled and traveled for his official visit to The Farm this past weekend.
Ranked #22 in the nation by Scout.com at quarterback (and probably higher as a safety if that were his primary position), Kellen Kiilsgaard is one of the elite talents on the board for Stanford in this important recruiting class. His story will soon come to an end, so stay tuned to The Bootleg for all the latest on this standout two-way and two-sport recruit.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our website, as well as our full-length feature articles in our glossy magazine. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up) and The Bootleg Magazine (sign-up)!