Senior Sitdown with Trent Edwards

Next in our series of Stanford senior interviews is Trent Edwards, the face of this program which has held hope but met difficulty and injury throughout the last four years. The Cardinal quarterback reflects on Big Game, updates us on the progress of his foot, talks about his role in recent weeks, plays the what-if game, gives insight into Walt Harris and comments on the direction of the program.

What is the update on your foot?

"I began physical therapy last Wednesday.  I've been going four times a week to her, doing deep tissue massage, range of motion and those types of exercises.  I'm going through a lot of different balancing exercises and trying to work back to where my toe has a full range of motion, full flexibility and strength in it."

Is there any timeline now for when you will be back?

"I don't know.  I'm hoping by Christmas.  That's the timeline I'm hoping when everything in my body will be healed up by then, and I'll be good to go for some of these all-star games in January.  Then I can make a decision on whether or not I'm playing in them.  It'll be a nice Christmas present if I'm hoping to play."

That would mean that at that point, you could start training like you used to - footwork, rolling out?

"Running, throwing - all of that, yeah.  All full without holding back."

What are the all-star game offers that are on the table?

"There's the Senior Bowl at the end of January in Mobile, Alabama that is a possibility.  And the East-West Shrine Game is at Reliant Stadium in Houston, I believe two weeks before that.  Now it's a matter of whether I play in both, either one or neither of them.  The decision process on that is going to start here pretty quickly."

Have the organizers for both told you that there are definite spots held for you, or do they also need to assess your health?

"They left it pretty open.  I was actually invited to the East-West game before the season began.  I'm pretty close to one of the directors, Jack Hart, who I met in high school.  I haven't committed to that game yet.  The Senior Bowl director has been in contact with my dad.  I haven't had any contact with him.  I guess there is an available spot in that game if I am healthy enough to play in that game."

And then will you definitely go to the NFL Combine in February?

"I would like to if I'm healthy, yes, and if I'm invited, yes.  I'm not part of that decision."

How have the last few weeks been for you?

"The win against Washington was huge and a great thing to be a part of.  I saw the stories and articles you guys wrote after the game - pretty shocking.  I understand that you need to sell your newspaper and your magazine, but I had a lot of confidence going into that game.  I think the slant of the articles that were written after the game was not appropriate, by any means."

An 0-9 team wins by 17 on the road, at a place where Stanford hasn't won in 31 years?

"[Shows 'I Believe' button]  You've got to believe.  You've got to believe.  That was definitely something.  Emotionally, it was great to be a part of that.  It was great to see and great to be in the locker room afterward and to celebrate with the guys on this team.  Obviously the Oregon State game - that was a very good Oregon State team that we faced.  I think we started off pretty well, but again it was another case like the past couple senior home games we've gone through.  We haven't done a very good job of finishing off the season very well.  Another case in point was against Oregon State.  I have a lot of respect for that football team, too.  Sabby Piscitelli and Matt Moore, both of those guys have improved a lot this year.  I've just been going through that, watching the games, trying to help T.C. [Ostrander] out, trying to finish up my last two classes with school.  That's really been the past couple weeks for me, and getting healthy."

You've been a part of meetings and out at practices.  Have you felt in the mix, or maybe a sense of attachment by not being out on the field?

"There's always a detachment, not calling the plays in the huddle, not looking guys in the face, not breaking the huddle and not being the leader that I'm used to.  There's been a lot of feeling of detachment, but that comes with the territory.  I realized that when I got hurt, and I've seen other guys in my position go through the same thing.  I was prepared for that, and I've still tried to be a part of the program and tried to be a part of T.C.'s offensive development.  I'm trying to do everything in my power to try and do that.  I went to Washington, went to Arizona State and am going to Cal this weekend - still trying to stay in the mix."

As a veteran quarterback and somebody who knows this offense very well, what have you observed from your perspective in T.C.'s growth?  How has he changed and improved as a quarterback since he took over the reins?

"Just being in meeting with him, he seems to be picking up on gameplans quicker.  He understands a lot more what Coach [Walt] Harris is trying to teach that week for that specific defense.  A lot of the questions asked in that meeting have been answered correctly, and T.C. has done a great job of preparing himself for the game.  The other big difference that I have seen for him is his swagger, his body language and looking to the sidelines - getting the signals from the other quarterback is a pretty difficult thing on third-and-long.  It's a long signal, and he's been able to pick up on that pretty quickly.  That just comes with preparation.  And I've seen him take some pretty big hits - our back is looking to the left to see if the corner is blitzing and then comes back and misses the Will linebacker, which is his first responsibility; the Z coming on the hook is wide open; you don't have enough time to deliver it to Richard Sherman because one of our other guys misses a block.  That's pretty frustrating, but T.C. doesn't show that frustration as much anymore.  That's the point I want to make.  He's taken those big hits and is obviously dinged up, but he's going to get back up.  That's something I respect a lot about him."

What goes through your mind on gameday, when you're there on your crutches and watching from the sideline?

"The easy word is 'frustrating.'  That's the one that comes to mind.  That such a minor hit to my body can keep me out so long is again frustrating.  It's still kind of a bittersweet feeling, knowing that I still have a lot of room to improve and hopefully an opportunity to play at the next level.  I'm very appreciative of that, but I'm also bitter in that I'm not able to play and not able to finish off and go out there with the guys that I've grown up with in this program.  'Bittersweet' is maybe a better way to describe gameday for me."

When you look at Nick Frank, Mark Bradford, Matt Traverso, Tim Mattran out with you on the sideline, do you play the what-if game?

"Yeah, you have to.  You've worked so hard so that you believe that you're as good as any team out there.  You're always going to ask those questions.  For the next 20 or 30 years, I'm going to ask myself those questions.  If Nick or Mark or any of those guys had stayed healthy, and we had been able to turn things around: what bowl game would we have gone to, what place in the Pac-10 we would have finished, how many Big Games we would have won.  Those are all questions, and that just comes with being a competitor and preparing so hard for playing football."

Trent, growing up in Los Gatos, you understood the Big Game.  Coming here, you probably thought that Big Games would be an important part of your college experience.  You have either not started or not finished every Big Game since you've been here.  Does this game take on a bizarre meaning for you as a Stanford Football player?

"Yeah, because I haven't really experienced starting the game, finishing the game and walking off the field after playing a full 60-minute football game against Cal.  That's obviously again pretty frustrating.  Injuries late in the season really haven't helped that situation out.  It's been hard to watch because you go to Stanford, you take a lot of pride wearing that Block S and you want to leave an impression in the Bay Area that Stanford deserves a lot of respect and deserves a lot of credit.  You grow up and now see Cal get a lot of the attention.  That's not the way you had anticipated it.  Not playing in those games, I haven't anticipated that either.  It's hard going through this week and going to the Big Game Rally, when I'm sure if you go over to a Big Game Rally in Berkeley right now, there are 10 times as many students there.  A lot of that has to do with us not winning and us not being where we need to be.  But that's part of college football, too.  You miss out on that sometimes through losing - you asked those questions about what-ifs.  It's kind of been an up-and-down week and kind of been difficult to go through."

What's your feeling on the direction of the program right now?  Walt Harris has been here two years and taken some heat for 1-10.  Do you think that is deserving?

"The relationship I have with Coach Harris is a lot different than what any other player on this team has, just from the fact that I have spent so much more time with him as my position coach.  He's a guy I respect and look up to.  He has allowed me to improve as a football player and as a person so much more in the past two years I have been here than in the first three years.  I have nothing but good things to say about him and where I believe he can take this program.  You guys can write what you want and put any heat on him that you want.  I see things a lot differently from my perspective.  It would be hard for you guys to see my perspective because you can't sit in quarterback meetings; you can't understand the things he says.  Just the way he coaches the position or the passion he has, he may focus more on the negative when you want him to focus on the positive.  That's just the tough, good football coach that he is, and that's the tough football coach that I respect and have grown up with.  Different guys in different positions on this team feel differently.  I'm very, very optimistic with where this program can go.  I don't think it can get much worse [laughs], but I feel that a lot of the pieces are in place that need to be in place."

If Bob Bowlsby called you into his office, that's what you would tell him?

"Absolutely."

Trent, we have asked the question of you all year, 'What's going on with the offense?'  Let me ask it now a different way.  What has happened this year with this offense that we or most people probably cannot understand because, like you said, we're not in the meetings and we don't know the playcalls, et cetera.  The offense has not been good this year.  Injuries played a part.  What else can you tell us?

"You look at any position on the offensive side of this football team, and I think the majority of guys who are out there right now are not performing as well as they performed last season.  A lot of that has to do with, I think, the losses we had in the beginning of the football season.  A lot of the confidence in these players has not improved over the year.  I think what happens in a good football team and a winning football team is that you see yourself making positive plays, which allows you to move the football, allows you to score and allows you to not turn the football over.  A lot of that really hasn't gone on this season.  There haven't really been, in my memory and in my film study, a ton of positive plays to look back on for a lot of the players on the offensive side, to look at and to learn from - 'I can do this.  I can block the three technique.  I can run a cavalier route the right way.  I can get to my third or fourth read in my progression.'  A lot of that that doesn't go on has to do with losing at the start of the football season and results in a lack of confidence by the end of the year.  I may be looking into it too much, but that's my evaluation of the offense."

How is Walt Harris as a coach in terms of dealing with confidence for the players?  And because this has been such a harder season than last year, have you seen him evolve from September to now in how he is approaching the team and how he is approaching players emotionally and psychologically?

"I would say that in recent weeks, there has been a little more positive mindset he has taken to it.  But I really don't think that's the role of the coach, to boost your confidence.  I think that you as a player, with what you have shown on tape on Saturdays, has a lot to do with where your confidence is going to be.  He can say everything that he wants; he can say and do certain things positive or negative; but ultimately what you do on Saturdays is what is going to improve your performance and improve your confidence."

What is your hope for this program after you are done?

"I hope we get bowl eligible.  I hope we beat Cal.  I hope beat UCLA, beat USC and beat all of the California schools - beat San Jose State and beat UC Davis.  Those are a lot of the teams we have lost to, and some of the teams I was recruited by.  If you can tell, there is a lot of animosity built up, so I would like to turn on the TV or read one of your articles next fall saying that this program is going in the right direction.  That is something that I truly do hope is going to happen."

Trent, you have gone through a number of offensive coordinators, coaches and systems.  All of them have not had much success, and not what you knew Stanford to produce while you were growing up.  There have been different circumstances each year.  If you were the athletic director, and you wanted to do something to help this program have a better offense at Stanford, what is missing?  What is the thread which you think has run through all these years and has held the offense back?

"I don't have anything specific.  You can look at many different areas.  You can take a person like Reggie Bush, who was recruited to Stanford but doesn't have the grades to get in.  You can blame it on that and blame it on a lack of offensive talent that has been recruited.  You can blame it on maybe a coaching staff one of the previous seasons that was butting head and not on the same page of what the offensive coordinator was telling the running backs coach, and just difficulty within the coaching staff.  You can have guys on the team who don't get along and who don't respect the player that is in front of him and therefore isn't motivated to improve and beat him out because he feels he is getting the bad end of it from the coaching staff.  Now, as an athletic director, I don't know how much he can do to help those things.  I've never really been an athletic director, so I don't understand what he really can do.  It's all of those areas.  I don't really want to make excuses, but you can change all of those areas I talked about and maybe move some of those guys on defense who aren't playing as much [laughs] and help the offense out a little bit.  I don't know.  You can play easier football teams.  You can schedule games against a lot easier defenses and gain some confidence through that.  That's a good question, and I don't know.  I wish I had a better answer for it."


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