Thousands of Michigan students are loving life today, back in their respective hometowns after having wrapped their school year with semester exams last week. Few may be as giddy though as Jason Forcier, who earlier this month had his transfer application accepted to Stanford and recently completed his NCAA transfer papers to become a Cardinal. One chapter has now closed for the college quarterback, and an exciting new one is soon to begin.
"I'm ecstatic," says Forcier. "I cannot wait to have a chance to get started at one of the best institutions in the country, and also to play BCS football with a new, up-and-coming coach who I have all the confidence in the world will turn the program around in Coach [Jim] Harbaugh."
Forcier is the third transfer from Michigan to Stanford in the last 12 years. Fullback Jon Ritchie after two standout years was drafted with the second pick of the third round in the 1998 NFL Draft and played seven years in the League, while offensive lineman Jeff Zuttah lasted just weeks in the Cardinal program before a medical condition forced his retirement. Where Forcier fits on that spectrum of success remains to be seen, but he does carry a lofty reputation with him to The Farm. The San Diego (Calif.) St. Augustine High School quarterback two years ago was freshly inked by the Wolverines and ranked by Scout.com as the #8 quarterback recruit in the nation. That will make him this fall the highest ranked prep on the Cardinal's roster of signal callers and the highest since Trent Edwards was slotted #2 in the nation by Scout.com in the Class of 2002.
What separates the 6'2" 218-pound slinger from most others seen in a Stanford uniform through the years is his feet. Forcier can make all the throws, short and long, but his escape and scrambling speed makes him a bona fide dual-threat quarterback. His senior year of high school, he threw for 2,915 yards and 40 touchdowns against eight interceptions, while also running for 1,014 yards and another 16 scores for the Saints.
Forcier, who is a self-described "lifelong Michigan fan," unfortunately felt he was in a situation in Ann Arbor where that skill set was not going to be maximized on the football field.
"Leaving for Stanford, it's a combination of things: being a little closer to home, and it's a great school where I think I can push myself even farther with my academics," Forcier begins. "It's a new opportunity for me. I didn't necessarily feel that I was going to be able to excel with all of my talent at Michigan, just the way that they like a prototypical drop-back quarterback who is 6'5" 240. In my heart, I just didn't feel that I was going to get the best opportunity and best chance to compete."
"I saw this opportunity, and it's a golden opportunity," he explains. "It's a win-win situation. I'm going to compete and play football at Stanford, a BCS school, and also go to a school that has just as good or better academics. I didn't want to step down to a school with something less."
Forcier's interest in Stanford emerged suddenly in the winter after the Cardinal hired Jim Harbaugh as their new head coach. The two had a number of connections, including Harbaugh's roots at Michigan and recent tenure at the University of San Diego. Forcier's father was a quarterback for the Toreros. Harbaugh's son also plays at St. Augustine and was a sophomore when Forcier was a senior.
"It all started when I was in high school," Forcier details. "He tried to recruit me, even though they were Division I-AA. I had friends from my high school who ended up playing football for him. I'm hearing how well they are doing and how much the players love all the coaches there. He really created a lot of excitement in the air over at that school [San Diego]. I had seen him come to our football games. His younger son is in my brother's class, and they play football with each other. I kind of had a connection also because he's a Michigan quarterback. I ran into him briefly one time when Bo [Schembechler] passed away. He was on the way to the funeral, and I was on the way back home actually."
"He knows what it takes to be the best, but at the same time, he's going to help you get there," he continues. "He's going to criticize you and get you there. He wants the best. The way he played quarterback and he played the game, that's the way I try to play. I think that's the best the learning - to come from him."
"It's a win-win situation being able to play for him. I don't think there is a coach younger than him," Forcier offers. "That's a great feeling to be around him. He's a players' coach, really young and energetic. I can't wait."
The quarterback transfer also believes that in Harbaugh he has found a coach who embraces his running ability.
"I think it's a perfect match, honestly," Forcier opines. "I know that he runs a true West Coast Offense. Michigan is not true West Coast; they have their own gig. He uses a running quarterback to their advantage. He knows if a quarterback can move around, he's going to create some mismatches where I can capitalize, whether it's rollouts or bootlegs. He just teaches you and gets the most out of your athletic ability."
"He saw what Bill Walsh did when he had in Steve Young a quarterback who could move. Even Harbaugh himself, he could move around a little bit," Forcier adds. "I think he knows that just because a quarterback is a running quarterback, that doesn't mean he can't still be a drop-back passer as well. It's just the extra ability to take off and make something happen - make a first down."
During his spring break, Forcier on March 1 took a visit to check out Stanford.
"In high school, I went up there for the Nike Camp, so I had only seen the outskirts of Stanford," he says. "I had never really gone in depth, going inside the campus and seeing everything. At the time, it was the old stadium as well. It was really a good thing for me to go up there and check out the campus and school in its entirety. I thought it was a really neat campus. It's so big! I thought Michigan's campus was big, but that campus was huge. It's a beautiful place, and I can't wait to get up there."
Though his flame was ignited back in January, news of the hopeful transfer was kept quiet most of the winter. The Michigan coaches were disappointed when Forcier asked for his release to talk with Stanford, but the transfer was far from a done deal. Blogs and message board finally caught wind of the news last month and reported Forcier's transfer, albeit prematurely. The redshirt freshman might still have stayed a Wolverine had his application not been accepted at Stanford because Forcier was not willing to downgrade his college degree and transfer elsewhere.
"This whole season, I didn't feel like I was going to get certain things in the offense where I could capitalize on my talent," he explains. "It wasn't for sure. I just wanted to check things out. My dad and I talked about it, and I only had the intention to leave if I could find a school with good football that was academically as good. I'm only going to a school that has good football and good academics. Stanford fits that mold, so it was kind of going to be them or nothing else. I had other schools I took a look at, but Stanford really was the one. I kind of had all my marbles in them."
When Forcier asked Lloyd Carr for his release, the Michigan head coach explained that he had to consequently take his repetitions in spring ball and shift them to newly arrived freshman Ryan Mallett, now that the Wolverines were losing their #2 quarterback. Forcier understood. He also knew he had walked out onto a ledge without a safety net. His prospects upon returning to Michigan in the fall would be tarnished, to say the least. Forcier prayed desperately for good news from Stanford's Office of Admissions.
On April 12, his 21st birthday, Stanford accepted Jason Forcier's transfer admissions application.
"It was the best thing. I was the best birthday present I could imagine," he exclaims. "I don't know if they knew that information and held it to my birthday, but it was like a gift. It was a really exciting day."
Forcier still had two weeks remaining in his semester at Michigan, however, and had to refocus himself on his final exams in Ann Arbor.
"It almost felt like being a high school senior all over again," he chuckles. "You're heading to a school that is really good, so you don't want to slack off during your last semester of grades. You know you're going there and want to make sure you finish well, but at the same time, you can't wait for this school to be over with so you can start that school. These last couple weeks were really exciting weeks for me."
Not only in possession of a new lease on life, Forcier also owns a newly repaired shoulder. He played this past fall as a redshirt freshman backing up Chad Henne despite a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. Forcier delayed the minor repair surgery, however, until after the season.
"I could have had [the surgery] at the beginning of the year, but I didn't want to get it just in case Chad Henne were to get hurt during the season," he explains. "I'm 100 percent healed now. It was just a clean-up from wear and tear to prevent anything further from happening. In fact, it feels even stronger now than it was before."
Forcier will be a redshirt sophomore in the 2007 season for Stanford, though NCAA rules require that a transfer from one Division I institution to another in football sit out a year before playing. It will be 16 months until Cardinal fans can see Forcier on the field in game action, at which time he will be a redshirt junior with just two seasons of playing eligibility remaining.
"I know that T.C. Ostrander is the guy, and I just want to go in there and learn from him," says Stanford's newest quarterback on the coming year. "You know, I learned a lot from Chad Henne because he's a pretty damned good quarterback, and I know there are things I can learn from T.C. I just want to help Stanford strengthen its program and help Coach Harbaugh turn things around."
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