The journey begins: Stanford welcomes the freshmen class

Jacob Rayburn, Publisher
Cardinal Sports Report

USA TODAY Sports Images

Monday marks the first day of a Stanford education and football career for 15 young men who either signed with the Cardinal in February as recruits or have returned from two-year LDS missions.

Stanford's 2017 class included 14 high school recruits and 13 made their way to Stanford last week. Levani Damuni will go on an LDS mission before attending Stanford. Fullback Houston Heimuli and outside linebacker Gabe Reid signed with Stanford in 2015 and now arrive as freshmen.

After months of anticipation the newest Cardinal flew in from as far away as New Jersey or made the drive to The Farm.

The celebrated class of athletes are now former five star, four star or three star prospects; they are freshmen at Stanford University.

From left: Stuart Head (Woodstock, Georgia), Tucker Fisk (Davis, Calif.), Connor Wedington (Sumner Wash.), Gabe Reid (Provo, Utah), Foster Sarell (Graham, Wash.), Sione Lund (Holladay, Utah), Davis Mills (Duluth, Georgia), Walker Little (Houston, Texas), Houston Heimuli (Wood Cross, Utah), Ryan Johnson (Axis, Ala.), Colby Parkinson (Simi Valley, Calif.), Osiris St. Brown (Brea, Calif.), Drew Dalman (Salinas, Calif.) and Paulson Adebo (Mansfield, Texas.)

Not pictured is nose tackle Dalyn Wade-Perry (Englewood, N.J.) and Levani Damuni (Providence, Utah), who is going on a two-year LDS mission.

It's an incredibly talented group of players by any program's standards and Stanford fans have been eagerly awaiting their arrival for several months. But no one has felt more anticipation and nervous energy than the young men and their families.

After weeks of seeing tweets from Johnson, Lund and others counting down the days until they went to The Farm, the student-athletes got to see their names in a place that truly made reality hit home.

For some of them seeing their names on a Stanford locker was the fulfillment of a long-held dream.

Dalman isn't the only lineman who wrote down that goal in an essay at a similar age. Sarell's recruitment was believed to come down to the wire with Washington and Stanford, but he knew what he'd written years ago about where he wanted to go to school.

For all the lofty recruiting ratings that the athletes earned when they were in high school, there truly was a five-star effort off the field to bring the group together as friends long before they became freshmen. And it wasn't just the scholarship athletes, either.

There also was a group text that included the walk-ons, and that class is set to arrive later for the Cardinal. They include: Dylan Boles (Van Meter, Iowa), Will Sweeney (Larkspur, Calif.), Ryan Atkins (Daytona, Florida), Hannes Boehning (Larchmont, N.Y.), Caleb Phillips (San Diego, Calif.), Joe McGrath (San Antonio, Texas), Noah Williams (Phoenix, Ariz.), Kyle McCombs (Laguna Beach, Calif.), Thunder Justice Keck (Northfield N.H.) and Spencer Jorgensen (Provo, Utah and going on LDS mission).

During Stanford's camp week the trio of Boles, Wade-Perry and Head could be seen talking on the practice fields that will be one of their main work places for the next four years. A walk-on from Iowa, a New Jersey defensive tackle and a Georgia safety appeared as comfortably familiar with each other as if they'd all gone to the same high school.

Reid was spotted walking around the campus he first visited as a recruit several years ago. Coaches were beaming as they hugged Reid, who first visited Stanford in April of 2014. Quarterback/wide receiver coach Tavita Pritchard could be overheard telling Reid: "I want to hear all about it (Reid's mission)!"

Heimuli's return to Stanford from a mission coincides with the arrival of his cousin, Lund. The possibility of an all-Polynesian backfield now exists at Stanford with Heimuli at fullback and Lund at running back. It will almost certainly happen on scout offense as the freshmen get their college football legs underneath them in practice.

And it wasn't just the recruits who became friends or are in the process of becoming closer. Parents met to have dinner together when they got to Palo Alto this past week. Undoubtedly the early plans have been put together by some about which games they will try to attend.

But before any games or practices the new Stanford students decorated dorms and will step into their first summer classes. Soon they will contend with summer conditioning with Kissick Family Director of Sports Performance Shannon Turley.

It's time to get to work.

What to Read Next