Memories of past struggles are now melting in the heat of success, but lavish attention from football's highest level still carries a surreal aura with it onto Stanford's campus, especially since Andrew Luck isn't around anymore. Unlike last season, when No. 12's final spectacle on The Farm made the event, Thursday saw Stanford's emergence as a factory of physically imposing football talent generate the hoopla instead.
"My job was to create the physically dominating roster that coach Harbaugh wanted," says strength and conditioning coach Shannon Turley, the man at the forefront of the Cardinal's muscular transformation of the past half decade.
He's done well. The latest opportunity to revel in that success came Thursday, when twelve former Stanford players, most from the school's heralded 2009 recruiting crop, culminated their college development with impressive showings at 2013 Pro Day.
It's a testament to the Farm Boys' physical depth that perhaps the day's most impressive performance came from one of the session's less heralded players. Linebacker Alex Debniak worked out on both sides of the football to showcase his versatility, and scouts were treated to a freakish combination of athleticism and physicality. Debniak's team-leading 10-foot, 3-inch broad jump will excite the NFL about Stanford's secret specimen, a guy who flew under the radar during his college career.
Ever the perfectionist, Debniak was disappointed in his 40-yard dash showing. Perspective is important here: If someone said six years ago that a muscle-laden, back-up Stanford linebacker would be upset after sprinting a 4.65, they'd be considered nuts.
A full list of Thursday's results is here. The numbers show consistent improvement across the board. Zach Ertz, Stepfan Taylor, and Chase Thomas all bettered their NFL Combine 40-yard dash results: Ertz's low 4.6 surpassed Notre Dame rival Tyler Eifert's 4.68, Taylor's similar time erased a poor Combine showing that was run on a bad ankle, and Thomas' 4.78 mark bettered his earlier performance.
Special teams enjoyed time in the limelight, too. Looking back to this past season, it's clear that Stanford couldn't have upset Oregon at Autzen Stadium without the stellar punting efforts of Daniel Zychlinski, and he, too, made a strong statement, booting a number of punts upwards of 50 yards with excellent directional control.
Zychlinksi's day provided an excellent reminder of Stanford's 2012 Rose Bowl success, a memorable season attained through the sum of several superb efforts. It was only fitting, then, that Ertz's focus leaving the field wasn't on his own solid performance, but rather on other components expected to drive the Cardinal's future success -- pieces that will one day enjoy a Pro Day full of NFL scouts, too.
"Look out for Jordan Richards," Ertz said without being asked. "He's the best safety that I've ever played against. That defense is going to be nasty next year."
A striking mentality has been ingrained at Stanford, one that's constantly zeroed in on the next opportunity for success. It's generated a workmanlike attitude that isn't new anymore, much like the hoard of NFL scouts that now regularly converges on The Farm to witness its results.
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg and FOX Sports Next. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com.
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