Shayne Skov first committed to play for Jim Harbaugh on September 1, 2007, the day of the coach's first game on the Stanford sideline.
Almost seven years later, after he had played a key role in transforming the state of Stanford football, Skov pledged to play for Harbaugh again. The second commitment happened four BCS appearances later, after the Farm Boys' miracle rags-to-Roses turnaround, with Harbaugh now in charge of the San Francisco 49ers.
It's been a stunning Stanford football resurgence, one peppered with "what-if-I-told-you" full circle stories. Skov owns one of those fascinating tales, and it may well be the ride's most remarkable one. Now, its next chapter waits to be written just a few miles down the road.
From Skov's vantage point, this ultimately triumphant era was simultaneously tumultuous and glorious. The highs were spectacular: A 12-tackle, three-sack 2011 Orange Bowl bowl tour de force, stone cold stops on fourth down and at the goal line against Oregon (2012 and 2013), and uncanny snap-time instincts against Notre Dame (2010) and Arizona State (2013) all come to mind. But there were lows intertwined in the memorable peaks of Skov's college career. They came when he shredded his knee's ligaments and broke his tibia in 2011, when he was suspended following a DUI arrest, and when his mother passed away during his final year on The Farm.
This much is certain: Nothing came easily for Skov during this high-flying yet turbulent seven-year era. Perhaps it's fitting, then, that his transition to the next chapter has gotten off to an uncertain start, too. Hamstring and calf injuries hampered Skov's spring workout numbers, and the Cardinal's leading tackler -- at one time considered by some to be a potential future NFL Draft first rounder -- was not selected at all earlier this month.
The snub fostered rampant speculation. Some theorized that Skov had never come close to returning to his pre-knee injury form. But while this may have been true in 2012 (his first season back), it was no longer the case last year -- at least statistically. Skov led the Cardinal's defense while posting the best numbers of his career in 2013. His trademarked savvy also returned in full force: He stripped Oregon's De'Anthony Thomas at the goal line and recovered the fumble; he flew over the line of the scrimmage at the snap to create the iconic image of Stanford's Pac-12 Championship Game goal line stand.
The most plausible explanation: Skov's injury-slowed workout numbers helped form the perfect storm that sent him into the land of the undrafted. Teams were obviously already wary of the severe knee injury he suffered in 2011, so the 5.1-second 40-yard dash that Skov ran in April on a bum hamstring likely scared the heck out of the league. While time will tell if teams' worries were reasonable, this much is important to remember: Skov's 2013 game film indicated a readiness to play professional football. His speed appeared more than adequate there.
Shayne Skov: Year-by-Year
Since the 2013 results indicate that Skov was back to pre-injury productivity, this draft snub appeared to be another brutal plunge in his roller coaster journey. But Skov signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers, a favorable development for many reasons. This reunited him not only with Harbaugh, but also with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who presided over his monster 2010 campaign on The Farm. Skov is also a San Francisco native.
With San Francisco star NaVorro Bowman currently sidelined with a torn ACL, Skov will have a chance to compete with third-round pick Chris Borland, Michael Wilhoite, and Nick Moody for a starting spot at inside linebacker. At the very least, he can earn a position on the 49ers' special teams unit to buy time to further enter the defensive mix.
Consider the motivation that fueled former Stanford players Richard Sherman (fifth round) and Doug Baldwin (undrafted) following the 2011 NFL Draft, and then realize that Skov's temperament -- the one characterized by smeared eye black and emotional locker room speeches -- has been considered even more fiery. If there's a player mentally suited to succeed with a chip on his shoulder, many Cardinal players will tell you that it's Skov.
"I think everyone has an idea and expectations for themselves," he recently told the San Francisco Chronicle. "And when the public opinion or people's perceptions are different than your own, then obviously you're going to take that a little bit personally."
Skov has long been to known to be a ferocious student of the game; a player who's rarely out-prepared in both the physical and mental arenas before the battle begins. His teammates say that he doesn't need an extra chip on his shoulder to perform at his highest level, but it will sure be fun to watch him play now that a boulder rests there.
David Lombardi is the Stanford Insider for The Bootleg. Check him out at www.davidlombardisports.com and follow him on Twitter @DavidMLombardi.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!