Jonathan Vaughters: To me it was a testimony to James and his maturity that he would be able to think through the decision and come out with that particular decision. I mean you would expect a 16-year-old who plays football as well as he does to really be gravitating towards one of the programs that does football really well. Not to say Stanford doesn't, but they don't have the sustained track record that a lot of the other programs that he was looking at do. For him to be able to do that, to evaluate Stanford not only for it being an up and coming football program, but an academic institution that is really going to position him well for the rest of his life, I think is a testimony to his growth and maturity as a young man.
TB: You mentioned that many recruits of James' status with similar offers would likely trend to a more traditional power. How was the Cardinal coaching staff able to convince James that he could thrive at Stanford?
JV: I think there were a couple of things that I'll mention. The coaches that he worked with most closely were Coach Harbaugh obviously, Coach Fangio, Coach Mason, and Coach Anderson. But I will also tell you, and I know these guys are gone, but it kind of speaks to them as well, [former Stanford special teams coach D.J.] Durkin and [former running backs coach Willie] Taggart when they were there. James overall has just had a really good feeling about the coaches that he has interacted with at Stanford. And I take that a step forward with Coach Harbaugh and his NFL experience and his energy and enthusiasm and clearly his knowledge of the game. He can give someone like James, who has NFL aspirations, some level of confidence that by virtue of going to Stanford, he's not giving up the opportunity to play at the next level.
Then you have a coach like Coach Fangio who came to Stanford from a long career in the NFL. He's probably one of those guys who has forgotten more football than most coaches know. So that was really a feather in the cap of Stanford to have somebody the caliber of Coach Fangio on staff. His recruiting coach was Coach Mason and his involvement has been great. Coach Anderson, who works with linebackers as well… it was really just a good team approach from a coaching standpoint that made James feel pretty comfortable that he wasn't necessarily giving up any dreams of playing in the NFL to pursue a degree at a prestigious academic institution like Stanford.
TB: Now that James has made his verbal commitment, if you could just reflect back upon the last 12, 18 months of the recruiting process.
JV: It's been pretty informative. It hasn't been too obtrusive at all. On some fronts I will give the NCAA credit for evolving and modifying their rules to at least give a lot more control to parents and recruits in terms of how much contact the colleges can actually do. So that's really helped us to be able to think things through and not be overwhelmed by attempts to contact and communicate with us. So we really have always been able to sit back and think through the options and collect our information and go by not only what the colleges say but do some of our own research. The visits were also great. It's given us a chance to travel – most of the time it was James and me – some trips my wife was able to participate in as well.
Actually the first trip James made to Stanford was with my wife and I didn't come along. So it's been pretty good. We've had a great chance to meet some great coaches who really came across as people that I would have felt real comfortable in trusting my son to. I guess the hardest thing, if I had to point one thing out… you're not allowed to call [that often] so it wasn't the calls. Email was manageable. They weren't allowed to text. I guess the hardest thing was a lot of the [coaches who stopped] by the school. They couldn't spend any time with James, but there were times where he was pulled out of class just to meet the coach, say hi, and go back. And if that's the worst thing that happened over the last 18 months, that's not that bad.
TB: I remember back last season, the first indication Stanford fans had of James' interest in the Cardinal was when he flew out to Southern California to see USC and Stanford play. Now I'd think that trip was a little more focused on seeing the Trojans, but what kind of impact did Stanford's performance that day have on James and his interest in Stanford?
JV: Well I will tell you actually it was a balanced trip. Our objective in going out was to see USC but also to see how Stanford performed on the field. So we went out with a balanced set of objectives. It just happened to be a home game for USC which according to NCAA regulations limited a lot of what Stanford could do at the time. When Stanford was on the field they were very impressive that day. To be quite honest after the game, we had just finished dinner or something like that, and I remember vividly that I told James if you're evaluating being out west all the way from home you should make sure to not only look at USC and UCLA but also need to take a look at Stanford because they've always done some very special things academically and it looks like they're moving in the right direction football-wise based on how they performed that day. That was kind of the tip of iceberg and really got James thinking, if my dad says I should go check them out, he's been pretty right so far, maybe I should go check them out. So that kind of planted the seed.
Not that I was going to push him to Stanford, but given their track record and what they stand for I felt it was an option at least worth evaluating. And that's what a lot of our process was for the first year, go out, collect information, understand your alternatives so when it comes time to make a decision you can make a well-informed decision and it's not just based on 100 percent emotion or 'I like I the last school I went to,' or anything like that. So kind of a method to the madness.
TB: Is there any concern on your end about the distance?
JV: I don't view it as a concern for my wife and me. It's just going to be a challenge for us as to how many of his games we're going to be able to see. Obviously if he had gone to Georgia, Georgia Tech, or even Alabama, we probably could have made it to every home game, but that's just the sacrifice we're going to have to make. We'll probably order the Pac-10 TV package and sprinkle in visits to see games. On the one hand, that's a drawback, but it certainty wasn't something that we injected into the process to sway his decision one way or another.
The Bootleg would like to thank Mr. Vaughters for his time.
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