When the Stanford Cardinal came straight off a season where it had one healthy tight end, and were forced to switch their starting defensive end over to offense as a second tight end, it is easy to understand the emphasis on tight ends in this 2003 recruiting class. Stanford has successfully recruited just one tight end the last two classes, and is looking to sign multiple tight ends this year. With the disappointing misfires on John Carlson and Nick Stefanow, all Cardinal eyes were focused on Patrick Danahy, a highly rated tight end from Cardinal Mooney HS in Sarasota, Florida.
Danahy has garnered offers from Stanford, Wisconsin, Georgia Tech, Northwestern, Auburn, Clemson, West Virginia, Duke and others. Florida was talking to him a lot in December, close to offering him, and Miami was coming on strong, but the proud recruit did not want hold out for latecomers. "If they are coming on this late," Danahy opines, "then they didn't want me in the first place."
Furthermore, the academic minded 6'5" 225-pounder grouped his schools into two baskets, as schools with big educational opportunities and those who he termed "big football schools." That narrowed his focus down to three final schools: Stanford, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin.
The visit to Madison to see the Badgers came back in October, very early in the recruiting process for Danahy, and he was very positively impacted by the trip. For the next month and a half, he told recruiting services that Wisconsin was his leader, but after he finished the recruiting process he admitted that each trip pulled him hard to that school like a yo-yo.
"I liked Wisconsin after visiting there for a while, but then thought Stanford was the school for me after that visit," he admits. "But then the Georgia Tech visit made it a lot tougher. After each visit it was hard. I wanted to go to each place after each visit."
That visit to The Farm came on December 6, and Danahy's mother accompanied him for the trip. While it is not uncommon for parents to travel with their sons on official visits, Mrs. Danahy was a key participant on this trip. Previous to the December visit, she has serious reservations about letting her son go so far from home. Tech clearly was an option closer to home, but the Danahy family even favored Wisconsin over Stanford because the plane trip was shorter and they had extended family in and near Madison.
"My mom's nerves have calmed down," reported the young Danahy to The Bootleg after that 12/6 Stanford visit. "She realizes now what a great opportunity Stanford is for me. She said she liked the visit a lot, and has pulled a total flip."
In the end when Patrick made his decision in favor of Stanford, he sat down with his entire family - parents and brothers - to get their votes. The entire Danahy clan unanimously voted for Stanford.
But before the end game played out, the Cardinal Mooney senior had a list of criterion he weighed between his three favorites:
- bond formed with players and coaches ("though not so much the coaches, because I know I may go through several coaches anywhere I play")
- how much they use the tight end
- overall football program strength
- distance from home
Stanford struggled in the distance category, and Danahy said that all the "football was basically the same" among his options. But the players and students at Stanford made a huge impact on him that may have ultimately won out.
"Everybody there was just like me - athletes who also focus on school," he described. "You can actually have intelligent conversations with these guys. I made great connections with all the guys. The atmosphere, with all the students and everything, was just great."
One of those connections was actually a blast from the past, as former Floridian Casey Carroll hosted Danahy on the trip. The two actually live about 20 minutes apart from each other, and they trained in the summer together. Danahy had forgotten that Carroll was at Stanford, and the two had a great time during the weekend. After he gave his final verbal commitment to the Cardinal, Carroll was one of the first people he called to give the good news. "He's all excited," said Danahy of his future teammate.
But to the football part of the equation, Danahy wanted to take a close look at what kinds of players were in the Stanford program, and how they would act after a 2-9 season. "It was a big surprise," he said after his trip. "I thought that everybody would be down, but they were really energetic and focused. All of them guaranteed it would be different next year. They were pissed at what happened this year. Every guy was determined that this year shouldn't have happened, determined to make it better. The guys are all so close and are working their tails off to do what they did two years ago (when Stanford was 9-3)."
Convinced of the commitment to football success, the next point of focus was Stanford's designs on him as a tight end in their offense. So Danahy and Stanford tight ends coach Tom Quinn sat down during the visit weekend and looked at game film from the year. They discussed in detail how the tight end is used, and the extent to which they want to run two-TE sets going forward.
"Everybody tells you that they want to use you and that they use their tight ends a lot, but the big thing was that something like Stanford's past nine starting tight ends have gone to the NFL, and 24 of their last 26. That's pretty big odds - a nice bonus," Danahy explained. "I think Georgia Tech uses their tight ends more as blockers, to be honest."
Even the distance factor, which seemed like an undeniable obstacle, is being turned into a positive with Stanford. "I think it will actually be a good experience," he says of his destination across the continent. "It could be good to come all the way out to the West Coast and experience a different place."
Contrary to the popular opinion on the Internet, this final decision came down to Stanford and Georgia Tech. Despite all the reports throught he fall that had Wisconsin as Danahy's leader, it was a Cardinal-Jackets final battle. The December 13 visit to Atlanta prolonged the decision that Danahy thought he wanted to make for Stanford a little longer, which was further complicated by his own week of final exams. The week after the Tech visit, all three schools' coaches came to visit him in-home on a Thursday night to say their final peace. Stanford's attendees were head coach Buddy Teevens and associate head coach David Kelly. Finals came the next Monday through Wednesday, and it wasn't until that Thursday night that the Danahy family sat down to talk things over. Patrick reached his decision on Friday but wanted to sit on it for a couple days. He gave the good word to Stanford on Sunday December 22, but waited until Monday the 23rd to announce it.
There had been no preconceived notion of a press conference, but when he told his Cardinal Mooney coach that he had his decision in hand, an impromptu gathering of the print and television media was called by the coach. The news surprised many in the community, including several of Danahy's coaches who thought he would land in Atlanta because of Tech's proximity to home. The senior tight end is not one for the hoopla, and called the press conference "kinda weird."
Remaining visits were tentatively scheduled for Northwestern and Florida, but Danahy felt like he wanted to have a decision by Christmas and did not see any school knocking off Stanford with what he knew and felt.
Patrick Danahy is currently rated the #28 tight end in the country according to the recruiting writers of The Insiders network, and #20 in the nation according to the Rivals network. Tom Lemming has tabbed him as the #12 TE in this class. He caught 37 passes for 503 yards and six scores this year. It is unclear at this point if he would redshirt or not next fall, which Danahy says would depend on his "level of adjustment" when he arrives at The Farm in August.
An additional note for Stanford recruiting, according to Danahy another Cardinal Mooney senior has just been offered by Stanford. Wide receiver Matt Buchanan was just offered a couple weeks ago by the Cardinal, and Danahy asserts that his teammate is "really interested in Stanford because of the academics." Danahy describes Buchanan as "the leading receiver in the state this year," with 1151 yards receiving and 17 scores on 53 catches. Buchanan busted onto the scene this season, but after laying low due to a missed junior season with a torn harmstring. Danahy cautions that Buchanan might be a "borderline" admit with respect to Stanford's admissions process, with a 1150 SAT and OK GPA.
For those not familiar with this Sarasota program at Cardinal Mooney, they are no strangers to producing top Division I talent. They sent quarterback Jared Clark to Notre Dame (who was moved to tight end), Jon Misiewicz to Boston College at linebacker and quarterback Jamie Burke to Florida, though Burke jumped after Steve Spurrier resigned hours after Burke's commitment so that he could pursue an NFL coaching job. And maybe the prized Cardinal Mooney alumnus is Buchanan's older brother James, who is currently at Florida State after his high school prep rating as the #1 fullback in the country.