While 19 of the 22 visitors Saturday at Stanford's Junior Day came from inside the state, there were a few more distant travelers. One who took his first look at The Farm was Bellevue (Wash.) High School offensive lineman David DeCastro.
"I had never seen the campus before, and it was pretty nice," he says of his first Stanford impressions. "The weather was perfect. The campus is amazing - beautiful. It was pretty nice."
"It seems like a community - like a tight knit place," DeCastro adds. "There's something about it which felt like one big community."
The coveted interior line recruit was thoroughly impressed by the greater Cardinal community, but his focus was narrower. This first opportunity at Stanford was not just about the campus, but also for him to deepen his relationship with the coaches. Previously DeCastro had exchanged text messages and talked on the phone with area recruiter Tim Drevno and offensive line coach Chris Dalman. On Saturday he was able to meet them in person and get to know them in a way that can only happen when looking someone in the eye.
What he found excited him.
"I got to know both of them pretty well," Decastro begins. "It was great. You know how you would think they would pressure you into making a decision? It seemed like they were more sincere and genuine. I was just impressed with both of them, especially Coach Dalman. He's a really great guy. We ate lunch with him and just talked and chatted with him. It was really cool to know about him and his experiences with football. Talking to him just let me find out what kind of person he was. I didn't really have to ask him any questions. Just talking to him let me know what he was like."
That praise being said, this thoughtful recruit understands that a Junior Day does not entirely describe the coach he would know if he were playing for the man at Stanford.
"You can't really tell until you get into practice. That's when the true coach comes out," DeCastro cautions. "I can't really tell what the coaching side will be like. They have many faces."
The 6'4" center also looked into the faces of four Stanford players who sat on a panel for the recruits and their parents on Saturday, without any coaches present. DeCastro was markedly impressed by what he saw and heard.
"The players are sharp," he praises. "They knew what they were talking about, and they didn't seem coached. They don't stumble. They pretty much had all the answers and seemed very knowledgeable about all the subjects and all the questions that were asked."
"I was looking at them to see if we were the same kind of people," DeCastro continues. "But we only got to see four of the players. It would be nice to see more of the team or more offensive linemen, who I'd be mates with."
Moving down the recruit's checklist - campus, coaches, players - DeCastro was able to take in all of the components that go into the elusive "fit" category, which he has previously said will be at the center of his college decision. He also knew that fit could scarcely be measured from afar. After having spent a day at Stanford, he now understands.
"It's a million times more clear," DeCastro exclaims. "First-person is the only way to go in terms of figuring out the best fit for you, just by being there in the atmosphere. I don't think the students were there, though, so it would be nice to see the student life and be around that. But there was plenty to see on the campus, just walking around and getting a feel for it. Also seeing the training room, weight room and facilities was really cool."
"I had always had high expectations for [Stanford], and going there just proved it by seeing the architecture and the way everything was set up," he continues. "It was surreal almost. Amazing. It's Stanford, and it's so prestigious. I had never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever have a chance to go there. You have to be Superman to get in. The fact that I was walking around campus and taking it all in showed me that it's all possible."
At least as giddy during the visit was DeCastro's father, who joined him.
"He had never been there before, but it was exactly what he expected. He loved it," the son says. "He's always loved Stanford. That's just my dad. He's always pushed me to go there just because he knows how prestigious Stanford is. That's always his choice and where his heart is. At the same time, he knows that this is my choice in the end, and whatever choice I make is going to be the right one for him."
Before the younger DeCastro can make a decision for or against the Cardinal, he will navigate the school's admissions application process. Believe it or not, he says that the most pressing questions he brought with him to Stanford this past weekend drilled down specifically on admissions.
"I wanted to ask how the application process works because at Stanford you don't just get automatically admitted," he explains. "You have to do the application and wait to be accepted. I was wondering how it works. Coach [Jim] Harbaugh kind of summed it up for me and explained how it worked. Then I talked to the recruiting coordinator, Lance Anderson, and he showed me the application and all that good stuff. That pretty much cleared it up, so now I know what I have to do."
"They said that my classes were good enough," DeCastro continues. "I guess my test scores were borderline, but they're supposedly good enough to get in. I have to fill out the application and make sure it's good. Get the teacher recommendations. Write a few essays. Hope for the best."
His January SAT netted a score of 1660, which DeCastro describes as "borderline" for Stanford after educating himself on the school's admissions standards and process during the weekend.
"Maybe there is the possibility that I could get in with that score, but I feel like I don't want to take the chance," he states. "I'm taking the ACT this month as well, and I'll probably retake the SAT sometime soon just to make sure. I never studied for the first [SAT] - I just wanted to see what my base score would be like. Now I've bought a book and study guide. Now I'm going to see how I can make it better."
Some of the incentive to score better and gain admission to Stanford came from a factoid shared by Jim Harbaugh during the Junior Day.
"He said that an economics professor at Stanford did a study and determined that to make the same amount of money that you earn with a Stanford undergraduate degree, you would have to be drafted in the NFL in the middle of the second round or higher," the recruit recalls. "That was a pretty astonishing fact that he gave."
DeCastro took in all of what Harbaugh had to say, as well as the type of person he projected. The Bellevue standout had already met Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham, and the Huskies are likely the biggest competitor for the Cardinal in this recruiting battle. How did he size up Harbaugh in the flesh?
"He seemed totally different from Tyrone Willingham, at least how it looked to me," the recruit replies. "That's not a bad thing. Their coaching styles are just different. For me, I'll be able to deal with pretty much any coach. I'm don't really need any specific coaching style for me to play. It was definitely nice to see what kind of person he was and to see his personality."
While Washington may be rumored to lead for DeCastro, he denies having any favorite in this process. In fact, this is one of the most non-exclamatory and laid back recruits with whom we have talked in this class. Following his Stanford visit, Cardinal emotions were running high, but nothing moved the earth to change his uncertain recruiting outlook in both timeframe and destination.
"I'd like to take my official visits," he opines. "I don't really plan on making a decision quite yet. I'm undecided. I really don't know, to tell you the truth. It could be a long recruitment; maybe it will be short. I really seriously have no clue. I wish I knew. It would make everything a whole lot easier."
"I'm still going to have to look and take some more visits, but that Junior Day visit definitely bumped up Stanford a lot," DeCastro adds.
With no other unofficial visits planned in the foreseeable future, news may run a little quiet for David DeCastro this spring. He did pick up one new offer in late March from Arizona, bringing his scholarship total to five - all from the Pac-10. ("The West Coast is pretty much the same to me. Distance isn't too big of a deal.") We'll keep in touch with the Bellevue linemen for his latest. It's a story certainly worth following, so stay tuned.
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