When Pawling (N.Y.) Trinity-Pawling School linebacker Shayne Skov, an '09 recruit, committed to Stanford on September 1, 2007, he became the earliest known Stanford football commit in program history. Indeed, in some sense it would be impossible for a recruit to commit earlier in a given recruiting cycle since September 1 marks the start of a recruit's junior year in the NCAA's eyes and is the first day schools legally can extend official, written scholarship offers. In Skov's case, he ushered in the start of his junior year by attending the first game of the Jim Harbaugh era, the 2007 season-opener against UCLA, and committing to the Cardinal the very same day he received his official offer. Now, ten months later, Skov is arguably the centerpiece of a Stanford recruiting haul for the 2009 class that is starting to turn heads nationally.
Ranked by Scout.com as the #8 weak-side linebacker and #150 prospect overall, he is one of four Top 300 players already committed to Stanford for 2009. In addition to Skov, the quartet of four-star prospects includes tight end Zach Ertz, tight end Levine Toilolo, and defensive tackle Terrence Stephens. While the success Jim Harbaugh and his staff have enjoyed in attracting a core nucleus for the class remains the most significant recruiting story for Stanford football this year, lurking as a major dynamic to watch is the intense enthusiasm of commits like Skov, which has manifested itself in concerted efforts to develop camaraderie within the group and to provide a helping hand to the coaching staff on the recruiting trail. Toward that end, Skov has used his summer vacation back home in the Bay Area from boarding school to build relationships with prospective future teammates. Notably, when Stanford conducted various camps for high school football players last week and concurrently hosted a special "Monday Night Ball" event, a number of the top Stanford football prospects visiting stayed with Skov, whose house has became a hotspot for Stanford recruits.
"It was awesome," Skov shares when asked about the busy time surrounding the Stanford camp events. "I had all the out-of-state commits over at my house and even like Levine [Toilolo]. So Levine, Brock [Sanders], Terrence Stephens all sleeping at my house for that weekend. Terrence has been staying with me, he'll be here for two more weeks, but the others were here as well for three days. They spent the night for three days. I had Zeke Motta come over one night, Jamal Patterson come over another night, and then Xavier Su'a-Filo was supposed to come over but he couldn't. It gave us an opportunity to really bond with those guys. It really has just had a huge impact in the recruitment."
In addition to opening up his family's home to those he has befriended through the recruiting process, Skov keeps in regular contact with many others who are going through the recruiting process with him. Among his fellow commits, he says he says he "talk[s] to Brock and Zach [Ertz], and Usua [Amanam] probably once a day." He says he keeps in regular contact with the highly-coveted Patterson as well. To Skov, the chance to personally interact with fellow commits and other recruits high on Stanford's recruiting board is appealing both because it gives him a chance to get closer to potential future teammates and because it gives him a role in helping attract top talent to his future team. "It's a good experience that no other program has really kind of initiated," he elaborates. "We've already taken the first step of building a football team with it because we already know each other and we talk to each other all the time…So it's just going to make us that much closer once we step on the field in another year. Also, it gives kind of the opportunity to those other guys like Zeke and Jamal to kind of see what we're about. It also adds a little bit of a personal touch to the recruitment, to see the kind of guys that we are."
These quotes may ring a bell for some Stanford fans who remember similar statements from another New York private school prep star, Alex Fletcher, the five-star offensive lineman who became Stanford's earliest commitment in the 2004 recruiting cycle and spent much of 2003 bonding with other recruits and putting an aggressive face forward on behalf of his future program. Like Fletcher before him, Skov openly embraces his role as a voice and a face for his Stanford recruiting class and does not conceal his desire to help improve the level of talent that will join him on the Farm. "We kind of provide another arm, per se, an outreach tool along with the coaches," the articulate rising senior acknowledges. "We can call people without any sort of restrictions and whatnot, so we have an opportunity to kind of sway [recruits] to take a chance on looking at Stanford. We can sort of provide a face or a character which they can associate with the program."
Skov, who is teaming up with friend and temporary housemate Terrence "The Mayor" Stephens in these outreach efforts, says he is becoming more and more comfortable reaching out to other recruits. It bears emphasizing, however, that recruits in the 2009 recruiting class have not yet started their senior years of high school and have made their marks thus far as promising football players rather than as professional, polished recruiters. As such, Skov admits to early nerves in breaking new ground for himself. "I mean, initially it was a little bit tough," he says. "You're a little bit nervous trying to reach out to somebody you don't know, but we've gotten better as time goes on. I know Terrence is a little bit more outgoing than I am. He's really good at it. But we just have to find things we like, common interests to sell them on what this program really has to offer. The key thing is all the guys. It's not just Terrence and I that are doing it. All of us have really bought in to the program and obviously we have a vested interest as future athletes, just the fact that we believe in the potential. It's not just us trying to convince people. It's the vision that we see."
Part of the vision Skov emphasizes revolves around a resurgent football program spearheaded by elite student-athletes. That vision has apparently been inculcated by the focus of Harbaugh and his staff on an "Enthusiasm Unknown to Mankind" [EUTM] when it comes to Stanford football. In emphasizing a new personality for Stanford football built around enthusiasm and elite talent, the coaching staff hosted a special camp event dubbed "Monday Night Ball" on June 23. The Monday Night Ball event immediately followed the Jim Harbaugh QB Academy and a QB-WR Camp that brought a number of prominent recruits to campus as summer campers. In addition to the campers already in attendance, the Monday Night Ball festivities attracted a bevy of Stanford commits (including Amanam, Ertz, Sanders, Skov, Stephens, and Toilolo plus soon-to-be commit Ryan Hewitt) and other prominent recruits.
In contrast to more conventional summer camp agendas, the Monday evening soiree was a bit different, according to Skov. "It was less of a camp, more so like a way for guys to have fun and get to meet the coaching staff and whatnot," he clarifies. "We had [Stanford Strength & Conditioning Coordinator Shannon] Turley run us through some Dynamic Warm-Ups and stretching drills. We ran through some passing lines. Did positional work with the coaches, with each respective position coach. And then after that we played a little bit of Cardinal Ball and then we went over to the pool and swam and had kind of a cookout. So it was just a good time." The cookout, billed as an "Island BBQ and Swim" at Avery Aquatic Center adjacent to the Stanford football practice fields and a short walk from Stanford Stadium, was a particularly unique element of the program that Skov enjoyed. "It gave the guys a chance to kick back and talk with each other," he continues. "Not everybody jumped in the pool, it was pretty cold at night. The pool was warm, but it was cold outside. There were probably ten of us in the pool goofing around, laughing and everybody else was just chit-chatting. And even parents, like my dad got the opportunity to talk to some parents and express his viewpoint on the whole entire recruiting process."
Ultimately, however, the story of Monday Night Ball proved to be the impressive collection of top rising talent. For his part, Skov was blown away by the event. "It was phenomenal," the 2009 recruit gushes. "You just kind of got to see the type of talent the coaches are trying to bring in. I even brought Chris Martin from Bishop O'Dowd up with me, he's a 2010 kid. You can see the change in the program. I was talking to the other guys, current Stanford players , and they were like 'yeah, we never had something like that.' It's a change, a metamorphosis the program is undertaking." Notably, Skov's observations on the impressiveness of the talent gathered for Monday Night Ball extend beyond generalities. In addition to providing him with a chance to work out with the fellow commits he has become friends with, the evening festivities highlighted for Skov the attributes of some other rising seniors who are prominent on Stanford's recruiting board.
"Zeke Motta, off the bat, is just a huge safety," he begins in rattling off some of the participants who impressed him. "The guy is ripped, a physical specimen. Awesome guy. Jamal [Patterson], obviously. I talk to him a lot and you can tell the guy's a gamer, he comes to play every day. So those two really stood out to me. I mean we had [Josh] Nunes and Taysom Hill battling it out. Xavier Su'a-FIlo came by. These are all guys that are getting recruited by every program in the country and they're taking their time to come out to the West Coast to check it out. It really demonstrates the strides the program is making with recruiting."
Such talk, accentuated by the Cardinal's fast start in attracting top high school talent for the class of 2009, undoubtedly excites fans of Stanford football eager to see tangible results of Harbaugh's characteristic swagger. Veterans of the Stanford recruiting process, however, may maintain a tempered outlook in light of the program's well-known and occasionally limiting admissions standards. Cynics reasonably worry that the hope of the spring and summer will recede in the face of the realities of the fall and winter. Far from being naïve about the Stanford recruiting process, Skov has been cognizant of the demands of the Stanford application process throughout the year and now hopes to be nearing the end of that aspect of his recruitment. "I've already got mine," he tells TheBootleg.com when asked about the application. "I've got it and I should have it done by the end of this week. Hopefully I'll have the green light from Admissions before I head back to school for my senior year." To the relief of Cardinalmaniacs™ already in love with Skov's package of big-bodied athleticism and enthusiasm for the Cardinal, the prep school standout possesses a solid academic background to present to Stanford Admissions, including a previously reported 2000 SAT score and 3.6 unweighted grade point average. Given his central position in the class and his active role in trying to make the class even better, Stanford fans will continue to follow his recruitment with great interest.