One-on-one with Alex Fletcher: Part II

Fifth-year senior center Alex Fletcher reflected on his Stanford career and looked forward to his future in an exclusive interview with TheBootleg.com's Daniel Novinson. In Part II, hear as he describes his toughest challenge at Stanford, his thoughts on Coach Harbaugh and which of his teammates he expects to break out in the years to come.

On whether the Stanford football team had a different attitude this year versus years past:
Definitely. Just being able to run the ball as well as we did, some of things that we did, Toby and Anthony running the ball, I think that was an accomplishment. Winning more games was the ultimate goal and we failed to do that, but I think the run game was something special this year.

On having three head coaches over a five-year college career:
It was a really tough experience in that regard from a personal standpoint. I do everything in a situation I can, where I put my whole heart into it, and then it almost felt like -- like a trust thing maybe, giving it your all and then having a coach go. A trust thing: coaches leaving, coaches leaving. I always found throughout my career, every spring ball and every fall, except for my final one-and-a-half years, I felt I always had to prove myself, always had to learn a new system, always had to do this and that. We never had a chance to build on anything, we were starting from scratch, starting from scratch, and that was really, really hard.

Obviously, it was three head coaches in tough situations, and that was obviously tough, but you're able to deal with that. I think, as a senior this year, I had to mature quickly over the past four-and-a-half years to deal with that. So it was weird. It was an intense experience.


On the team dynamic:

Obviously, there's a dynamic just going on in the locker room, the guys, obviously that's always fun. Before practice with the guys, it was always going on. Everyone was different and, in their own right, always good competition.
I don't know what it was with Nigerian nose tackles but between Babatunde Oshinowo and Ekom Udofia, the Nigerians have helped me a lot, because they're two good nose tackles. I played against them all these years. They were always on the two-deep.

On the best players he faced:
I remember being a redshirt freshman, 285 pounds, starting at right guard and facing [former Oregon DL] Haloti Ngata the whole game, when he was at home. I was the guard against him, so it was a lot of one-on-one situations. That was a handful. He was a handful. He was very, very good. And then there were certain guys over the years. USC's guys -- Sedrick Ellis had a lot of moves and could do different things. Notre Dame had real solid defensive tackles three of the four years I faced them in Derek Landry and Trevor Laws. They were just leverage guys who could cause a lot of havoc, good players.

On Stanford players poised for a breakout:
This year, some things were obviously pleasant -- I wouldn't say surprises -- but some guys came along. Matt Kopa had great, great games this year at right tackle and really came into his own. He didn't start the first couple [six], but he came into own where he's a pretty big NFL prospect now because he has all the tools and just put it together. It takes about one-and-a-half years to make the switch from DL and then get into it. What a great move by the coaches. It's not just benefitted him, but also the team. Eye-opening.

Our defensive line, you look across and there's some really awesome depth and we'll continue to have awesome depth. Four defensive tackles we can just rotate is something that we've never had, so with Brian Bulke, Sione Fua, Ekom Udofia and Matt Masifilo, those guys all coming back is huge, huge. Plus, Erik Lorig and Tom Keiser were recognized by the Pac-10 [Honorable Mention] and are two guys that make the defensive ends an obvious area of strength. I really look forward to watching them.


On how he thinks back on his Stanford career:

There's a lot of people who ask me this all the time, ‘Would you ever regret going to Stanford?' Absolutely not. I think that, at the end of the day, Stanford was an experience.
I think dealing with some of the adversity, the adverse times, especially with the coaching changes and all that stuff, really helped me mature, helped me deal with things and really helped teach me to take things day-by-day. Work your hardest every day and be a little more patient. I was always wanted things faster, faster, and I think Stanford helped with that. Obviously it was tough but I think at the end of day Stanford got it right with Coach Harbaugh. And someone had to experience some of the other tough times, but I think Stanford's in great hands right now, and I think not only the obvious combination of the education and Harbaugh recruiting some of the real top prospects from all over the country.

The excitement's there again. It wasn't there for awhile, but it's there again. We have the right guy for the job and these football players and my teammates are going to reap the benefits. Obviously, some classes had to go through the downside and looking back on it, one of worst periods of Stanford football in history, but at least the arrow's looking up.


The Bootleg: Note that I didn't even ask about Coach Harbaugh in the question, and Fletcher's out of the program by now and doesn't need to stay in his coaches' good graces. Suffice it to say, then, that's some genuine praise for Jim Harbaugh.

I was done, all out of questions and just chatting with Fletcher off the record about our respective Stanford experiences. [And Trent Johnson, if you're reading this in Baton Rouge, yes, that's not a typo. I can eventually run out of questions.] But then I hear Fletcher start to get fired up, and, sure enough, next thing out of his mouth is "make sure to put this in the interview." He said he always got asked about his takeaways from Stanford, and wanted to make sure people heard his thoughts.

On his Stanford experience:
With the Stanford experience, I think part of it is that you're a football player and get recruited to play football at Stanford, go into your freshman dorm, and everyone has accomplished equally, things comparable to you, or has done a lot better things than you have. At the end of the day, Stanford's a humbling place. You have to work hard every day, because everyone else has. That's a type of environment that's hard to replicate. I always say it's an incubator for success. I was motivated not just by the athletes, but guys with startup companies or studying engineering or biology -- everyone is great at what they do. And I think that was the most important thing I took away.


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