As Stanford puts together what will likely be one of the top 15 recruiting classes in the nation, a number of people are hard at work reaching out to prospective recruits in an effort to further improve the class. While the efforts extend to Stanford Head Coach Jim Harbaugh, various assistant coaches, Director of Football Administration Mike Eubanks and other football office staffers, and numerous commits and their parents, one recruit stands out from the pack as the public face of 2009 Stanford recruiting. Known as "The Mayor" to many Stanford fans, 4-star defensive tackle commit Terrence Stephens has brought an unparalleled enthusiasm and frequency to his phone calls, text messages, and e-mails to recruits and their parents on behalf of Stanford Football. Before he has even matriculated to Stanford, he is already a fan favorite.
So the news last week that Stephens had been admitted to Stanford came as music to the ears of Stanford fans eager to see his positive attitude and infectious personality – not to mention formidable physical presence in the middle of the defensive line – on The Farm. Stephens received the news last Monday directly from his future head coach.
"Coach Harbaugh actually gave me a call," he relates. "He called me and I was just leaving dinner with my teammates – we have a tradition to go to wing night every Monday night and I was just leaving that and they called me. And I had been kind of expecting it because they had given me a timeline but I didn't know when it was coming, so it kind of took me by surprise. He basically said 'you've been accepted to Stanford University, congratulations.' I was like, 'wow.'"
To the surprise of no one, the news that energized Stephens' admirers in the Stanford fan base and football office alike also thrilled the well-rounded senior from Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard himself.
"It was a great experience," Stephens reflects. "I worked really hard on my application and it was a very, very tough process. Being [a] football [recruit] or not, I knew I had to work my butt off on the application and put my best effort into it. It was a very rigorous application. It wasn't something to take lightly and I had to put my effort into it so getting the news back was just a big weight off of my shoulders knowing that I got in."
Another person enthused by Stephens' acceptance to Stanford is his mother, Tracey Stephens. The newly-admitted Cardinal commit celebrated the news by going out to dinner with her on Tuesday night.
"She's ecstatic," the younger Stephens shares. "She's very proud once again that her baby is going to Stanford and receiving one of the best educations in the country. She's speechless, honestly. She's proud, she'll always remain proud."
Tracey Stephens' pride in her son, who possesses well-documented athletic, academic, interpersonal, and musical gifts, is undoubtedly shared by Cardinal coaches glad that there is now no doubt regarding the 6'2" 280-pound Renaissance Man's ability to attend Stanford. Though Stephens' admissions prospects were never in much doubt, the process to get to where he is today required significant commitment and work on his part.
"It was very tough," Stephens admits. "It was extremely tough. But it's just something that if you put your mind to it, you're going to do it. I put together my timeline and I spent two hours every Sunday at Starbucks - I got my drink and got to work and I got it done. So you've just got to put yourself on a schedule to finish it off and make sure that you get your revisions done. That's one thing that I recommend to anybody else who is doing an application, set yourself on a timeline and make yourself get it done by a specific time or else you'll just put it off and that's not what I wanted to do."
In addition to completing the essays and requirements needed for the Stanford application, Stephens has also had to maintain his strong performance in the classroom while he juggles myriad other tasks in his life, including starring for one of Maryland's premier high school programs and serving as the most active incoming player recruiter Stanford has ever had. With all of the current activity in his life, academics remain a clear priority.
"It has been a very tough year," he notes. "Senior year, you know, a lot of people like to slack and not take an extreme course load, but Stanford told me what I needed to do and the classes I needed to take and the grades I needed to receive in them. Actually, I started my first quarter with a 3.71 [grade point average], which is decent for your senior year but there's always room for improvement. But based on the circumstances of football and everything that's been put on my plate, I think I did a very good job in finishing off that quarter. And now I just have to finish off the rest of the year with grades that are appropriate."
As Stephens notes, many high school seniors feel a powerful temptation to decrease their intensity in the classroom, enjoy their final year of high school, and cruise into the next stage of their lives. Motivated by a clear goal of being admitted to Stanford, Stephens did not succumb to that temptation and instead enrolled in a very ambitious course load.
"I'm in a lot of AP classes," he says. "AP Literature and Composition, AP Computer Programming, Forensics, AP Environmental Science, AP Statistics. Of course Weight Training because football players have to be strong. And Philosophy/Comparative Religion - that class is very interesting."
But classes do not have a monopoly on Stephens' time these days. When not working on his schoolwork or suiting up for the title-chasing Quince Orchard Cougars, Stephens has been famously active as the voice and face of Stanford's vigorous recruiting work in advance of Signing Day in February. It is a role he relishes.
"Well, it's not any hidden fact that I'm an outgoing person, I love talking to people, starting relationships with people," he reflects. "This is a perfect opportunity for me to do so and make sure that I got the job done with the recruiting class. I kind of took on the leadership role when I verbally committed to Stanford. I knew that it just had to be done and that there had to be someone to take the bull by the horns and get this class on a roll. So I make sure that I talk to everybody at least once a day. And that's everybody, including recruits, commits, coaches, everybody, because that's the only way you'll get to know them as a person, get to know everything about them, and get updates on everything to stay in the loop. And it just makes me feel good when I read articles and the first thing they say about relationships and talking to people is my name. It just makes me feel really connected and really important to this recruiting class. And I'm not gonna stop. I'm never going to... when it comes to getting this recruiting class in the top 10 because that's been my goal since the beginning. I think we have a great shot. We have a big recruiting weekend coming up [in January] and that's going to be absolutely phenomenal because it's not only our commits there, it's going to be, as of right now, I think, 12 prospects that are uncommitted that are still going. So it's going to be phenomenal."
Notably, Stephens' palpable excitement regarding the recruiting class he is helping build around him comes in the context of a larger vision for what it means for Stanford Football and his own career. That vision is bigger than any single recruit and provides insight into Stephens' priorities and view of what makes a successful football team.
"There's no particular [recruit]," he deflects when asked if any recruits are special priorities to close on before February. "There are some guys that fit into our program and everybody would make a huge difference because Stanford doesn't just go around recruiting each and every person and athlete. They recruit special guys. And that's kind of our goal. We're kind of the screening process, to be honest, for those guys, the other recruits. We get to talk to them and we get to see and we can go back to the coaches and tell them, 'we really get along with this guy, we need this guy.' Personally, there are some guys I would do anything for to get into the school, to build a relationship with, because I know in the long run that's going to help the both of us. And [I know] we'll be a great team because as of right now I've built relationships with every commit that we have at Stanford and that makes me feel, on offense or defense, that I have trust in that person. When you get on the field, there's no need to have the feeling that you have to do somebody else's job, this, that, and the other because you'll trust the person to do their job and they'll trust you to do yours. And that's the game of football – working as a team and accomplishing one goal. And getting to know each other previous to that is a way to succeed on the football field."
Nevertheless, outside observers tend to measure recruiting successes by commitments and recruiting rankings. With a professed goal of finishing among the top 10 recruiting classes in the nation, Stephens acknowledges and appreciates those metrics. He feels like his efforts to deepen the bonds between incoming recruits and to amplify the excitement regarding Stanford Football have paid off.
"Yeah, definitely," Stephens concurs. "I'm getting even more guys involved, from the commit side to the prospects involved. It's just going to be phenomenal to see the way we bond and the way we interact with each other when we all get to school. It's definitely exciting for me. I can't wait until January. There's so much planning going into this [recruiting weekend] and so much effort because it really means a lot, not only to the prospects but also to the guys who are already there to meet their new teammates and just have a great weekend. It's just going to be fun-filled and we're never going to stop!"
Two months from Stanford's biggest recruiting weekend of the year, Stephens' mind is already focused on that weekend, which will occur January 8-11 and will bring a large group of recruits and their parents to Stanford's campus less than a month before Signing Day. With the entire group of committed prospects and as many as a dozen others expected on The Farm that weekend, Stanford's coaches and football staff will get an opportunity to showcase the academic offerings, campus, and players that typically make Stanford's big official visit weekend a rousing success. Stephens will surely bring his considerable enthusiasm and charm to campus in early January in the project of building relationships that will last throughout his college career and beyond. First, though, he is hoping to lead the Cougars to a repeat state championship.
"I just got out of practice," he told The Bootleg last Wednesday. "We have our first playoff game this week. We're 9-1. This playoff game is against a team we had a tough game [against] the first week. This is the playoffs. They're excited to play us and we're excited to play them because we know that we're the better team and it's just going to be a fight to the end. But we plan on going out and taking the life out of them early and finishing off the game, just keep working ourselves through the playoffs because we're defending state champions. It should definitely be a good playoff run."
True to his word, Stephens later helped Quince Orchard defeat Rockville (Md.) Wootton 36-0 in a dominant shutout to open the playoffs on Friday. Quince Orchard had started the season with a 26-21 win over Wootton, but did not allow the game to be so close the second time around. Next up in the quest for a repeat state championship is Sandy Spring (Md.) Sherwood.
Even as Stephens keeps his eyes on that prize, Stanford fans can rest assured that he will continue to take care of business in the classroom while never ceasing to bring his trademark passion to the recruiting trail. Of that, there can never be any doubt.
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