About six years ago, former Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh had
encountered tumbleweeds on a Texas highway in a cross-state
recruiting swing aimed to lure high school quarterbacks Andrew Luck
and Landry Jones to The Farm.
On this pristine Sunday afternoon by the waters of San Francisco
Bay, that 14-hour trek through the desert was nothing but a distant
The high school kid, now an NFL star, had finished an epic return to
the area of his college roots by beating the man with whom he'd
created a college football powerhouse just a half hour away.
Luck, now at the helm of the Indianapolis Colts, sealed the deal
versus Harbaugh's San Francisco 49ers. With Indianapolis leading
13-7 in the fourth quarter, Luck faked the hand-off before sprinting
left into the empty end zone. The ferocity of his celebratory spike
made the ball soar nearly as high as Candlestick Park's upper deck.
The Colts finished off the 49ers 27-7.
"I know [Andrew] is grinning ear-to-ear," Indianapolis coach Chuck Pagano said afterward. "I have never seen him smile the way he
smiled after this win. This one meant a lot to him."
Less than 24 hours earlier, Kevin Hogan, Luck's successor at
Stanford, had roamed 27 yards untouched to ice the Sun Devils on a
play of nearly identical design to the one No. 12 ran into the end
zone at Candlestick.
"I realized it was the same play Stanford ran," Luck told me with a
smile afterward. "I was watching that last night."
It wasn't just the play that was similar. The Colts' offense,
directed by former Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton,
eerily resembled the unit the Cardinal put on the field in 2011.
Luck's numbers weren't gaudy: He completed 18-of-27 passes for 164
yards. But his sharp, cold-blooded performance spearheaded a
punishing power rushing attack against one of the NFL's best run
"Very good," Harbaugh, now the prodigy's opponent, conceded
afterward. "Very efficient."
Fourteen different players and coaches with history in Stanford's
program partook in this 49ers-Colts game, making it possibly the
largest Cardinal reunion ever at the NFL level. A Stanford theme
dominated the on-field postgame handshake session after, as alumni
from both teams embraced at midfield and posed for a group picture.
Here's a list of all the Stanford-affiliated participants:
- Jim Harbaugh: 49ers coach
- Greg Roman: 49ers offensive coordinator
- Vic Fangio 49ers defensive coordinator
- Tim Drevno: 49ers offensive line coach
- Peter Hansen: 49ers defensive assistant
- Kevin Tolbert: 49ers strength coach
- Owen Marecic: 49ers fullback
- Alex Debniak: 49ers fullback (injured reserve)
- Michael Thomas: 49ers safety (practice squad)
- Pep Hamilton: Colts offensive coordinator
- Andrew Luck: Colts quarterback
- Coby Fleener: Colts tight end
- Griff Whalen: Colts receiver
- Delano Howell: Colts safety
Luck, though, was the media star of the day that featured more
Stanford-NFL symmetry than ever before. Here are some photos from
The Bootleg's coverage of the Cardinal reunion at Candlestick.
David Lombardi is the Stanford
Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com
and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
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