"We Walk": #5 QB Robbie Picazo

Occasionally, LSJU is thrown a bone when talented players have strong family connections to the Farm. Idolizing John Elway in his youth, QB Robbie Picazo has always dreamed of donning a Stanford uniform and The Cardinal scored a nice coup in landing the 2008 "Orange County Offensive Player of the Year" as a top-notch walk-on and, at least for the time being, as a "non-scholarship" player!

"We Walk!": #5 QB Robbie Picazo

Quarterback A: Tabbed as a five-star recruit by Scout.com…Ranked No. 1 overall at his position in Class of 2009…Started 12 games as a high school senior in 2008…Threw for 2,877 yards, 23 TDs and 18 INTs on 176-of-322 passing (54.7 percent, 8.93 yards per attempt)…Accepted a full ride to the University of Southern California.


Quarterback B: Tabbed as a two-star recruit by Scout.com…Ranked No. 111 overall at his position in Class of 2009…Started 14 games as a high school senior in 2008…Threw for 2,757 yards, 33 TDs and only 6 INTs on 192-of-310 passing (61.9 percentand 8.92 yards per attempt))…Accepted a non-scholarship "walk-on" opportunity at Stanford University.


Quarterback A is Matt Barkley; a highly decorated college prospect from Mater Dei High (Santa Ana, Calif.), said to be the next Matt Leinart. Quarterback B is Robbie Picazo; a brains-over-brawn recruit out of Tesoro High (Las Flores, Calif.), a gamer fighting for a chance to play quarterback at the NCAA level.


Despite accruing even gaudier senior season statistics than the potential USC starting quarterback, Picazo is humble when comparing himself to Barkley.


"Matt Barkley is in a league of his own, he's a pretty special player," he said.


Perhaps Picazo shouldn't be so modest. In the 2008 CIF Playoffs when the Tesoro Titans faced the Mater Dei Monarchs, Picazo dominated the head-to-head matchup and led his team to a 38-35 victory. Picazo, operating in a spread offense, posted season highs in completions and attempts (22-31) in the game while throwing for 228 yards and a pair of scores with one interception. Barkley ended his prep campaign by only completing 12 of his 33 pass attempts for 233 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.


Not only did Picazo out-shine Barkley from a statistical standpoint during his senior year, there were a handful of other "top-flight" gunslingers that finished behind him as well. UCLA freshman quarterback, Richard Brehaut, achieved comparable statistics (19 TDs, 4 INTs and 2,406 yards), but Picazo's QB rating of 118.0 bested Brehaut's mark of 111.0.


"As far as all the other guys, I think I stack up pretty similarly to them," Picazo said, referring to the highly-touted class of 2009 California signal-callers. "They might be a little bit ahead of me right now because of the fact that all they did was football [in high school]. Once I am able to focus on football all year round, I should be able to catch up pretty quickly. I think there are a lot of guys that are pretty much the same level as I am."


Obviously statistics can be a product of the system a quarterback plays in or the personnel around him, but individual accolades fall solely on the player's abilities. After leading his Tesoro Titans team to a rather incredible 13-1 season (losing only to powerhouse Long Beach Poly as "Poly81" would surely point out if we didn't), Picazo was named the Orange County and South Coast League Offensive Player of the Year in 2008. He was a First Team CIF Southern Section Pac-5 selection and led Tesoro High to South Coast League titles in 2007 and 2008.


Humility may have kept Picazo from being discovered by other programs. Stanford's keen recruiting eyes snatched up Picazo when he had but an official offer from Princeton. Not a bad option at all, but not the Pac-10, and not Stanford.


"I think I can compete at the highest level and I wanted to give myself a shot to do that," stated Picazo. "Ever since I can remember, I've always wanted to go to Stanford. Both of my parents went there so I've grown up watching all of the games and rooting for Stanford."


Robbie's father, Bob [LSJU '79], who teaches and coaches some football at Tesoro High, was on the Stanford wrestling team during the 1975-76 season. He was "discovered" by the Stanford wrestling coach during an intramural match and ended up filling in for former Stanford football running back and star wrestler Gary Lynn in varsity matches in the 165-pound weight class. Picazo's mother, Carolyn, originally from Denver, Colorado, also graduated from Stanford in 1979, but did not participate in sports. Interestingly, the two met on campus as fellow freshmen at Branner Hall!


Born in Laguna Hills, Picazo has been a lifelong Cardinal fan and once he was admitted to the university, his decision to become a member of the college team he was most passionate about was set in stone. Picazo recalls a recent Stanford football miracle as his most memorable moment.


"That win against USC a couple of years ago," he said. "It wasn't even on TV where I lived, but my parents were at a party where it was on and they called me when Stanford went up with 30 seconds left. I turned on SportsCenter right away to see highlights because I knew they would show them due to the huge upset."


Picazo understands his role on the team could be limited in his first couple of seasons, but also recognizes the importance of gaining experience.


"What I hope to do is compete for the third [quarterback] spot and make the travel team," he said. "If it doesn't happen, it's not the end of the world. Other than that, I will try to work out, get stronger and learn the system."


Picazo will get plenty of time to "learn the system" according to head coach Jim Harbaugh. During the Q&A session of the recent "Fall Ball Fire-Up 2009", Harbaugh stated that Picazo and Josh Nunes (the other freshman QB) will be getting "a lot of reps…almost as many as the second-teamers" in training camp.


Picazo realizes the challenge in earning that third spot on the depth chart behind Andrew Luck and Tavita Pritchard, and is cognizant of a mechanics issue he has to work on to get there.


"If I can quicken my release a little bit, that would probably help [me get the spot]," stated Picazo. "And if I just go out there, perform to the best of my ability, learn the system and focus all my energy on that, then that will give me the best shot to get there."


Brandon Huffman, Scout.com's West Recruiting Analyst, pointed out a strong quality in Picazo's repertoire as well as an area for improvement.


"He's a winner and he's a leader, the kind of guy you want on your team," Huffman said. "His biggest area of improvement will be in his arm strength. He doesn't have the greatest arm, but gets the ball to his receivers."


Like most freshmen, Picazo addressed the transition in speed of play between high school and college. He also admitted there was a vast difference in the complexity of playbooks when comparing the prep programs to the NCAA ranks.


"Probably the next thing after the speed of the game is learning the plays," he said. "Becoming familiar with all the names and terminology is challenging for sure."


When asked if he could be the next in a long line of great Stanford quarterbacks, Picazo reverted to his realistic expectations and unassuming nature.


"I sure hope [I can be the next]," stated Picazo. "I grew up idolizing John Elway because he played three sports and so did I (lettering in baseball and basketball). So he was definitely always my favorite athlete. But if I can just be the starting quarterback one day and be anywhere near him, that would be great. But that's a long way off."


Again displaying meekness when asked to compare himself to an NFL quarterback, Picazo came up with a fine example.


"I guess Peyton Manning, because in high school the coach gave me the freedom to change a lot of plays and call audibles at the line," he said. "I think I can read defenses well and have the ability to change plays like Manning does a lot."


Picazo blasted the SAT in high school with a score of 2160, and also boasted a 4.5 GPA. It takes a sharp mind with intuitive precision to recognize defenses and change plays, and Picazo believes that is one of his greatest strengths as a quarterback.


"Yes, I definitely think it is. I guess that's one of the reasons I'm going to Stanford."

Editor's Bonus Notes: 

It was noted above that young Picazo was picked by the Orange County Register as its "Offensive Player of the Year", a particularly impressive honor considering that he won it over the likes of USC's top QB signee (Mater Dei's Matt Barkley), Cal's top QB signee (Mission Viejo's Allan Bridgford), and Colorado's top QB signee (Clark Griffith of Los Alamitos), all of whom played in "The OC" last year! Then you can throw in Kane Wilson of Placentia (El Dorado), who signed with Utah State. There probably aren't too many individual counties in the country that produced five FBS quarterbacks in a single year.

In their 2008 piece "The Furious Five: Top Quarterbacks" for OCVarsity.com, writers Carlos Arias and Damian Calhoun had the following to say about their selection of Picazo as the #1 passer in Orange County (again over #3 Bridgford and #4 Barkley) - "If you need to win a game, Picazo is your guy. He doesn't make mistakes. He makes plays."

Nice local article on Picazo: http://tesoropress.com/tribune/2008/10/brains-and-the-brawn-featuring-robbie-picazo/

The Bootleg had a chance to chat with Picazo's parents after practice on Tuesday. Very nice folks. We learned that Bob's grandparents were migrant farm workers from Mexico (the grandmother was from Torreón in the state of Coahuila), but Bob's father was actually born in Orange, Calif. when the grandfather was working in the U.S. Hmmm...w
e figure it has to be a decent omen when we bring in a star high school QB with partial Mexican ancestral roots who happened to follow Stanford closely as a kid. Sounds a lot like a certain Heisman trophy-winner named Jim Plunkett, a Mexican-American high school hero from James Lick High in San Jose, Calif. Plus, Picazo comes to the Farm from a high school in a town called "Los Flores". Wouldn't "the flowers" tend to include "roses"?

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