March 03, 2011
It is not often a former U.S. Secretary of State meets with high school prospects during a junior day, but that was the case last weekend at Stanford when Condoleezza Rice addressed those in attendance.
Numerous recruits raved about Rice's demeanor and approach, and her political insight in educating them about Libya's current tumult and the overall American political landscape.
This isn't typical junior day stuff.
"She had some great stuff to say," San Diego (Calif.) Westview tight end Taylor McNamara said. "She has been through a ton and to learn from people who have been through various situations and key people who have been involved, she was the secretary of state. To learn from people like that, you won't find that many places."
What impressed McNamara the most was Rice's forthrightness in discussing current political topics and memories of meetings past with Libya Col. Moammar Gadhafi and other world leaders.
Rice, an avid football fan, is a professor of political economy in the Graduate School of Business, the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution and a professor of political science at Stanford. Prior to her service in government, she was Stanford's provost.
"She discussed the whole Gadhafi situation and Libya and telling me stuff I never learned about," McNamara said. "The amount of stuff I learned there in two days made me wonder what I could learn in four years."
Many aspects, both academic and athletic, will go into McNamara's college decision - along with the other prospects at Stanford's junior day - but having the former secretary of state and national security advisor in George W. Bush's administration address the crowd was something special, something not many colleges can match.
That is one reason McNamara, one of the top tight ends on the West Coast, said Stanford will make his top five when he narrows his list in the coming weeks. Traditional powerhouses USC, Ohio State, Florida State, Miami, Michigan and others have offered as well.
Others felt the same way about Stanford, that it is a special place with special opportunities and that perhaps they can make it work both academically and athletically in Palo Alto. Puyallup (Wash.) prospect Joshua Garnett, one of the top offensive tackles in the 2012 class, was one of them.
He took a picture with Rice. He listened to her talk. He realized it was something only a few places will be able to offer. Facilities and tradition go a long way and are certainly important but talking to someone with her credentials makes a big impression.
"She's a lot more football-intelligent than you'd think since she was secretary of state," said Garnett, who has offers from Stanford, Auburn, Cal, Notre Dame, USC, Oregon, Washington and many others. "She'd much rather talk about football than politics.
"It was definitely interesting because you don't expect to go down there and meet all kinds of influential people in the government that made a lot of decisions that affect the entire United States.
"She's really laid back and chill, and is a nice person who you can have a really nice conversation with. She wasn't all snooty like, 'I'm the secretary of state.' She was really nice and you can tell why she held that position and was good at it."
Running back Byron Marshall, who rushed for 1,632 yards and 23 touchdowns in his junior season at San Jose (Calif.) Valley Christian, has visited Stanford before but never in this setting.
Marshall, whose brother Cameron plays at Arizona State, said it was humbling to meet with Rice and to think about all her accomplishments. He is considered one of the West Coast's top running backs but Marshall said there was a lot to learn just by sitting and listening to Rice.
"That was a real good experience," Marshall said. "She was talking about some of the accomplishments she's had and how everything fell into place for her.
"That was a humbling experience just hearing what she had to say. It puts you in your place. You think you're this good and this high-rated athlete and she did all this with the White House and with presidents. She was a really nice lady, though. I liked her a lot."
San Clemente (Calif.) offensive tackle Kyle Murphy said: "It's pretty impressive the connections you get if you go there and it seems the people that go to Stanford respect the students that go there and they want to help them out as much as they can."
Rice was there to sell Stanford. It is an invaluable recruiting tool that the Cardinal coaching staff will use to its fullest advantage.
"She came in and said, 'I want to congratulate you guys on being here and you obviously made good decisions up to this point,' and she was encouraging us to keep making good decisions because it will get us through life and it got us to where we are today," McNamara said. "It was just a great experience."