Zach Swanson: The Back Story

You've read about how Zach Swanson might contribute to Stanford as a football player. Now hear how it all came to be. From the first recruiting letter to an amazing Junior Day, from an exuberant commitment phone call to Swanson's efforts to sway the rest of the 2010 class, Swanson shares all with

The first time The Bootleg called 2010 tight end commit Zach Swanson (Katy, Tex.) he was at a surprise birthday party for a friend. The second time, he was studying for the SAT, which he was planning on taking March 14. ("If I can ace this, I can get into Stanford," he quipped.) So while he might not officially have matriculated onto the Farm, Swanson is already living the life of a Stanford student-athlete, balancing his work and his play.

The SAT takes special import for Swanson, as he'd like to gain admittance to Stanford as soon as possible. Academically, Swanson doesn't appear to have any reason for concern: he took the two-part SAT in seventh grade and scored a 1040, ("not knowing half the math," he makes sure to add.) In the classroom, he reports a 4.3 weighted grade-point average with a schedule chockfull of AP classes.

"I'd like to get above 2100 on the SAT, because then I feel like I won't have to take it over again and could get admitted early," Swanson said. "That's just a goal I was shooting for: not having to take it over, not taking it a second time."

However, it's not just academic concerns motivating Swanson to become officially admitted early.

"I want to be a leader for the rest of the Stanford recruits," Swanson relates. "If you have grades to get into Stanford, I don't know why you'd go anywhere else. Since I'm basically the face of Stanford now, since I committed, I'd like to help other people see that Stanford is the only choice if you can get in there. If you have the grades, there shouldn't be anywhere else to play college football—in my mind, at least—and I would love to help other people see that."

Swanson wishing to forge a pipeline to Palo Alto is not just empty talk. First of all, Swanson already has his recruiting pitch down to a science.

"I've told a bunch of guys, in my mind, you can't do better than Stanford," he said. It's the best academic school that plays BCS football. I want a school that challenges me both as a football player and a student. I want a challenge in both areas. At Stanford, I believe I can be best football player and student I can be."

Secondly, Swanson is already working on the details of a plan to help build a strong 2010 class. For while Chris Badger might have beat Swanson across the finish line as 2010 Stanford football's first verbal commit, Swanson undoubtedly will have the opportunity to sway fellow recruits, alongside Badger and fellow 2010 verbal Eddie Plantaric.

"Chris and I are already Facebook friends," Swanson said. "Now, I need to get out and talk to all the other people on the fence. Joe Montana's son [Calif. quarterback Nick Montana], [Ill. defensive end] Chance Carter, I met up with them at Junior Day. They seem like good guys. I would like to have them as my teammates, so I need to talk to them and influence them."

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Though Swanson didn't commit until two weeks ago yesterday, Stanford's courtship of the tight end started long before.

"They've been sending me letters before the start of junior year, but then sort of stopped during season," Swanson said. "They kind of stopped, but from other schools, I kept getting them."

Luckily for the Card, Swanson was persistent.

"I put together my highlights and my Coach sent it to them," Swanson said. "Then, they offered a scholarship in mid-February and invited me to their Junior Day. Originally, I heard from Coach Buh because he recruits my area, but I got a real good chance to talk to all the coaches. They're real good guys, real enthused and got me convinced I want to be part of it. I met Coach Roman, my position coach, and I like Coach Harbaugh a lot."

Despite other schools maintaining more contact through Swanson's junior season, the Card were able to represent an important first for Swanson.

"Stanford is my first and only offer of right now," Swanson said. "Texas A&M was sending me letters. I went to their Junior Day and their football game against Texas Tech, but they never actually offered me. Oklahoma State, they called when I got back from Stanford and said we're real close to offering you, but need to see you catch passes, so I sent them tape of the seven catches I had on the year."

So, with a Cardinal offer in tow, Swanson headed off to Palo Alto for Stanford's Feb. 28 Junior Day. What Swanson saw on his visit certainly made a lasting impression.

"The Junior Day was amazing, really impressive and sold me," he said. "I've been to other Junior Days, and the thing is they show you around the facilities, show you the stadium, but at Stanford, they took it to a new level. I got to sit in on a classes, which was a real eye opener compared to high school. The campus tour went around the whole campus – the whole campus is beautiful. We did get to see the weight room and sit in on practice. It was the first day they were hitting."

It was ultimately academics, however, that sold Swanson on the Card.

"But what separated Stanford is we ate lunch with the professors in our major of interest," he said. "I think that sold me right there. I got to talk to these guys, leaders in their fields, eating lunch and talking to them. I ate with Bruce Wooley in Electrical Engineering. My father is a civil engineer, and I see myself doing that, so afterwards, I talked to the civil engineering professor. We talked for awhile and he convinced me: I think what I'm going to do is civil engineering."

Swanson returned to Texas, mulled over his visit, and quickly knew he had reached a decision. Still, there was one order of business still remaining. So Swanson picked up the phone that Tuesday night [March 3] and called the Stanford coaching staff.

"They were at a restaurant or something," Swanson reports, "and they were jumping up and down and going crazy. I think they said they're taking two tight ends this year and wanted me to do it, but were scared they weren't going to get me. I think I made the right choice."

As Stanford football continues to build its 2010 recruiting class, stick to The Bootleg for all the latest!

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