(Wyndam Makowsky) Q: Outside of your speed and the blocking up front, what helps you succeed on kickoff returns?
(Chris Owusu) A: It comes down to practice. We emphasize kickoff returns a lot during the beginning of each practice. It’s one of the things we pride ourselves on doing and one of the things that helps us go out and get big kick returns.
Q: Is there anything you’re doing in particular that helps set you free?
A: I think vision is a key element in getting a good kickoff return. It helps you see blocks before they happen. And then having faith in your blockers—I have a lot of faith in them and that’s something that helps me.
Q: What’s more fun: catching a touchdown pass or returning a kick for a TD?
A: Right now, returning a kick for a TD. Especially the opening kickoff. It’s the best feeling in the world to know you’re helping your team win that much more.
Q: As a wide receiver, what do you see as your strengths and weaknesses? Areas for improvement? How far have you come along?
A: My releases have gotten a bit better. I’m a lot more confident in my ability to catch the ball. In the beginning, I wasn’t as confident, but now, I’ve gotten a good feel with my quarterback. That’s basically it. My strengths are just my speed and my ability to get away from defenders. I feel that that’s improved as well, so I’m going to keep improving that.
Q: How confident are you in your route running?
A: I’m pretty confident. I work a lot on it with my receivers coach—we emphasize that and getting out of our breaks every day.
Q: Let’s look at a specific play, that 40-yard post pattern on Saturday. It looked like you didn’t see the ball until the last second. What was going on during that play?
A: (Laughing.) First of all, it just goes to show how great a quarterback we have, and the faith he shows in his receivers just to throw that ball up there. I wasn’t looking until the last second. Andrew Luck is just a great quarterback—I didn’t see the ball because I didn’t turn my head, for some reason, but he was able to put it on me, so I had to catch the ball.
Q: Who have been the toughest defensive backs to match up against in practice?
A: Right now, we have a lot of DBs going down with injury, but others have stepped up. Johnson Bademosi, he’s doing a great job for us. Quinn Evans, when he wasn’t hurt, he was doing a great job. Right now, they’re all doing well.
Q: In terms of the ones you’ve faced in a game, was there anyone in particular who stood out as a tough assignment for you?
A: All the DBs we’ve faced so far have been talented. They’ve made me better, they’ve made Ryan Whalen better, but one secondary that did well against us was Arizona State. They held me to two catches. They did a great job shutting me down.
Q: Looking ahead to this weekend, any thoughts on USC? Do you have any friends on the team?
A: Absolutely, I have some ex-teammates at USC. Marc Tyler, Marshall Jones—they’re doing well. I think some of them are pretty hurt right now, but it’s going to be great to see some of my friends who go there and see what we can do against a great team like USC.
Q: Jumping even further into the future, you played in high school with Jimmy Clausen. Any thoughts about facing him?
A: I’m excited. He’s having a great season right now. It’s exciting to see him play. But we’ll see what happens when we see them. I’ll just be excited to see him and remain in touch with him.
Q: Let’s say you’re given a minute to recruit someone to Stanford. What would be your pitch? Not to put you on the spot, but what would you emphasize?
A: Right now, we have a great football program. That speaks for itself. We’re a program on the rise, and I feel like we’ve gone over the hump that we needed to get over. So if you want to be part of a great program, a national-title contending program, then you should come to Stanford.
Q: Nice! What have been your goals coming into the year, and where do you see them right now?
A: At the beginning of the summer, it was just to win the starting wide receiver position, since I wasn’t the starter last year—Doug Baldwin was. I was able to beat him out, he’s a great competitor, but that was one of my main goals. Another goal of mine was to get better as a wide receiver on the whole. Get better separation from defensive backs—we worked that to perfection. That is something I wanted to pride myself at getting better at.
Q: Has there been one moment that has impacted you? One moment where you stepped back and said, “This has been a huge learning experience”?
A: One learning experience I’ve had so far is catching balls after practice. A lot of balls. In high school I wasn’t doing that as much. This year we’ve really emphasized that, and I think that’s helped our receivers catch the ball better and have more confidence.
Q: Do you have any NFL role models?
A: Devin Hester would probably be my role model for kick returners, he’s been doing a great job. Chad Ochocinoo, he’s having a great year right now.
Q: What about Ochocinco?
A: He’s a big playmaker, and I pride myself on being the playmaker of the football team. He’s doing a great job and helping his team to a great season so far, and that’s something I’d like to do for our team. It’s something I want to emulate.
Q: Hester is a former cornerback. Do you have any defensive aspirations? Do you want to play both ways?
A: I told the coaches that if they needed me at defensive back, they should let me know, but right now wide receiver is my spot. But if they needed me to play defensive back, I would love to play defensive back. (Laughing.)
Q: Off the field, what are you doing for fun? Anything in particular you like about Stanford?
A: I think the people around here are great people. Stanford students love to have fun. They’re not the typical students you’d think they would be. There are a lot of them who love having fun, love going to parties, love having a good time. I love hanging out with people here. I really love video games, too.
Q: Any ones in particular?
A: Call of Duty.
Q: Did you get Modern Warfare 2?
A: I got it today, right when it came out. I’m probably going to go back right now and play it. Oh, and study my playbook. (Laughing)
Q: You have a brother at Harvard. If you hadn’t come to Stanford, where would you have wound up?
A: That’s tough to say, since all the other schools I wanted to go to, we’ve played, and I’ve grown to not like them. I really don’t know. Stanford was always my top choice. Maybe Oregon or UCLA, one of those two. They have good programs.
Q: Can you talk a little about your chemistry with Andrew Luck?
A: Yeah! We both came in the same class, so that started things off right. To have a relationship outside of football with your quarterback is really important, and I think that’s what Andrew Luck and I have.
Q: Are you good friends?
A: We’re great friends. We live two doors down from each other, so we’re able to talk to each other every day, and see what’s going on in each other’s lives. That helps us with our chemistry outside of football, and that translates to football. During football practice, we’re always talking, always throwing the ball to each other, so that really builds our chemistry and has really helped so far.
Q: How valuable was the experience you gained last year. A lot of guys redshirt. Do you feel that the experience you gained by playing as a true freshman outweighs the extra year of eligibility you’d get from sitting and learning for a year?
A: For this year, it was really important for me to play in those games last year. I only played in five of them, but it was important to just get the feel of college football. It was definitely a big hit for me when I played in my first game against Arizona. That was a big shock—the speed of the game, how big everyone else. So it really helped me.
Q: What do you see in the future for Stanford, both over these next few games and next few years?
A: Right now, our goals are still intact. We want to win the Pac-10 championship. Some things have to go down, but we’re looking to win these next three games that we have. That’s what our goal has been: go into every game knowing that we can win, and we’re going to continue to do that.
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