For much of 2008, Stanford's aggressive recruiting of tight ends stood out as the most noticeable aspect of the Cardinal recruiting effort. By the end of July, Stanford had netted commitments from four of Scout.com's top 27 tight end prospects. While the intervening months have filled out the recruiting board at other positions to the point where Stanford looks to sign one of the top 15 recruiting classes in the nation in February, tight end remains a clear strength of the class. One of the standouts of the group is Spring (Tex.) Klein Oak senior Jordan Najvar.
The 6'6" Najvar offers a big receiving target and as a senior showed why Cal, Oregon, Arizona, Arizona State, Miami, Missouri, Texas A&M, Nebraska, Virginia, Kansas State, Iowa State, Kansas, Purdue, and others joined Stanford in the hunt for his services. His 51 catches for 770 yards and 3 touchdowns led Klein Oak in each receiving category, while his blocking contributed to a dominant running game that averaged 316.5 yards per game on the ground and boasted an 1800+ yard rusher and a 1000+ yard rusher. On the strength of its offense, the Panthers went 10-2 playing in Texas' famed 5A classification, winning three playoff games before losing in the state quarterfinals. After the season, Najvar was named Second Team All-Texas 5A and First Team in 5A's District 13. He capped off his high school gridiron days by playing in the prestigious Under Armour All-American Game.
Fresh off the Under Armour experience earlier this month, Najvar joined all but two of the commits in Stanford's class on The Farm for the massive recruiting weekend that fans have dubbed "Big Visit." After spending Thursday night through Sunday morning in Palo Alto, he shared his thoughts on the weekend with The Bootleg.
"Ah, the visit was a blast," he gushes. "It was everything all of us thought it would be. [It was] great hanging with the guys and just getting to hang out with the coaches. It was really fun. It couldn't have been a better weekend."
"Basically, they showed us around the campus, stuff we'd seen before, but it was just a great time getting to know all the guys – putting a name with a face and getting to know the true personality," he continues in describing the visit weekend activities. "We had a banquet, you could say a kind of fun dinner and dance. And then we played laser tag one night and then basically hung out with the football players afterward, our hosts. It was a really cool thing to see, the life of a Stanford player."
With the distinctive feature of the weekend being the extremely large group of visitors – 30 total visitors, including 16 previous commits – Najvar says the chance to spend time with future teammates was the highlight of the weekend.
"I don't think any other team in the nation has the relationships and camaraderie our class has," Najvar opines. "We know everybody, we know anything. Some of us have relationships with some other people [from other schools] but anybody in this class we're friends with already and to not even go to school with them yet, it's just going to be that much better when we come in. It's just going to be that much easier to transition from high school to college."
Notably, Najvar got a week's head start in bonding with future teammates when the Under Armour All-American Game afforded him the opportunity to play on the same Black Team offense as a pair of fellow Stanford commits, 4-star quarterback Josh Nunes and 4-star wide receiver Jamal Patterson. The game and attendant week of practices also gave Najvar a chance to size himself up against elite competition.
"That was a blast," the effusive Texan affirms. "Just to see all the great athletes and really what you have to do to be great at the next level. All those guys are going to big-time schools. So you know you have to work. Getting passed to by Josh, and Jamal and I doing the same drills with him at receiver and tight end - we hung out all the time, do what normal kids do. I think it was a great time –a vacation where you get to play football. It was really the best I could ask for as an all-star, All-American game."
After spending time with two fellow recruits, Najvar trekked out to Stanford for his official visit, where he was hosted by sophomore defensive end Tom Keiser, who recently completed a redshirt freshman season on the football field that earned him Freshman All-American honors from the Football Writers Association of America, the Sporting News, and CollegeFootballNews.com. Najvar enjoyed getting to know a future teammate with whom he says he shares a similar personality as well as the other players and recruits.
"He's a real cool dude," the recruit says. "He's really laid back. He's basically one of those guys that is just chill, kind of like I am. So it was cool. And then we hung out with all the other players. We were all there together, all of us commits. Basically just got to see how the team bonded and what they did outside football. It really helped show us what Stanford really is."
While Najvar conveys clear comfort with the recruits and players he met this past weekend, he is especially enthusiastic regarding the Cardinal coaching staff.
"This coaching staff I already had a great relationship coming in," he shares. "I know I can talk to Coach Buh, Coach Harbaugh, and Coach Drevno about anything. They're going to be like my fathers away from home. I know that they talked to my parents every day and that the whole time my parents were hanging out with all the coaching staff at night because they just get along so well. Our family has a great relationship with the coaches and everything. The main reason I chose Stanford is that the coaches are who you'll be around and if you can't trust who you'll be around then there's no need going there. This coaching staff definitely has all my support. Anything I do has my family's support behind me because of how they're all best friends now."
With the coaching staff such a critical part of Najvar's affection for Stanford, he would seem a natural candidate to be concerned regarding recent rumors linking Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh to various NFL coaching vacancies. To the contrary, however, he dismisses those rumors and expresses complete confidence that Harbaugh will be on campus to greet the 2009 recruiting class in the fall.
"The media can say what they want," Najvar says. "He addressed us, he's not going nowhere. He personally called my stepdad with all the media [rumors] to let him know that I wasn't going anywhere [and] he wasn't going anywhere. He said that he's committed to this class. I know that the players said that he addressed them in a meeting when it happened. The media can say what they want, it's just rumors. Coach Harbaugh, he's not going anywhere. He wouldn't be putting all of his time into recruiting us and getting us admitted. The stuff that he does with the admissions process to get us admitted and to fight for his players is an unreal thing that he has to do in his job unlike any other head coach in the nation. He wouldn't be doing all that work just to be jetting out on us. So I know he's going to be here in the long run to help us contend for a national championship."
As Najvar notes, his view of Harbaugh is shaped in part by the odyssey through the Stanford admissions process that Harbaugh and the Stanford football staff helped him through. He admits that the process was a difficult one for him.
"Oh, the admissions process was tough," Najvar acknowledges. "It was the biggest stress burner on my family we've ever encountered but it made us a lot closer. Not a day went by that my mom wasn't nervous. It was so bad that we even had to set up other visits to Arizona and Missouri because I wasn't sure, I didn't know what was going to happen. I know that Stanford is an elite school and they're not just going to take anybody. It doesn't matter if you're an athlete, you come here to be a student and you want to learn."
After a long process, that quest for admission to Stanford finally came to a fruitful conclusion this past weekend.
"I got admitted," Najvar reveals. "I talked to the Dean [of Admissions, Rick Shaw] and got admitted. He called me over because he wanted to talk to me, which was real cool because Coach Harbaugh went all this way to get me admitted, and I talked to the Dean. Basically, after I got admitted I cancelled the other visits because I knew this was the place that I'm going and this coaching staff has put too much time and I'm 100% behind them. The stuff they went through with my family and how they kept us up to date on everything got me through the process. They know a lot of athletes go through it but the way they were there for me and handled it really was something that not an ordinary person would do but somebody that cared about you would do for you."
Fittingly, Jordan Najvar shared the moment of learning about his admission with his family and the coach with whom he has developed such trust and admiration.
"Coach Harbaugh came right out of nowhere and came huffing and puffing and just grabbed me and said 'you're admitted,'" the newly admitted commit recounts. "My mom started bawling afterwards. It was really a great family moment."
Now admitted to Stanford and with his official visit behind him, with the aforementioned contingency visits no longer part of the picture, Jordan Najvar now faces one last semester of high school before stepping on to Stanford's campus to help spark a program resurgence he and the other recruits in the 2009 class can now only dream about. For now, he has a message to "anybody that is interested in the Stanford program":
"I know that all the players have the same demeanor as me that all of us got offered by other big-time schools and that all of us want to come here because there's something special about this place and something about this coaching staff that gives you the feeling that we're not coming here just to get a good education and just be a mediocre team. We're coming here to get a great education and build a foundation back to where Stanford was a powerhouse and compete for a national championship. With this recruiting class being the best in Stanford's history, I feel we have all the tools with our coaching staff. The Stanford people, alumni that are interested in athletics, will not be disappointed with the work ethic and the determination that we put into getting a national championship. And that's one of our main goals with recruits is to be competing in the Pac-10 with USC because we believe that it takes a special person to get a great education but also be a great football player."
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