There’s a lot to be thankful for as a Stanford Cardinal fan. One might be thankful for 109 National Titles or 21 straight Directors’ Cups. Maybe you are thankful for Stanford Football and Christian McCaffrey. So far, this decade has been incredible for football fans as the team has been to five BCS bowls and has seen multiple Heisman campaigns. Life has been pretty easy as a Stanford Cardinal fan, but above all on this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for Jim Harbaugh.
My dad went to Stanford in the 1980s during the John Elway era, and my mom went to a football powerhouse in USC. Most would assume I’d have chosen USC as my favorite team, but in a house divided, my father influenced me to become a Stanford Cardinal fan at a young age. Throughout the mid 2000s, Stanford struggled, and I was tempted to betray the Cardinal and root for the Trojans. Besides, USC had Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and consistent national title runs. I couldn’t expect disappointment. Meanwhile, Stanford flirted with five hundred records at best, but Jim Harbaugh changed the expectations.
In 2007, Jim Harbaugh turned me into a diehard Cardinal fan, and it all happened on October 6, 2007. It was a typical day at the Coliseum. USC fans were ready to watch a blowout, local Stanford fans were just excited to see their team take the field, and I was too young to understand that Stanford had no chance against the number one team in the country. Despite being forty one point underdogs, I took my seat optimistic and left wearing my Stanford jersey with pride. I remember the USC fans crying in shock, the Stanford band playing on through the night, and myself idolizing the Stanford team up close after the game. The game was my first vivid Stanford football memory, and I have Jim Harbaugh to thank.
After the Stanford vs USC matchup in 2007, Jim Harbaugh would change the Stanford football culture entirely. Harbaugh gave Stanford a tough guy attitude, where they played physical football on both sides of the line. Furthermore, Harbaugh changed recruiting as he found skilled players who could keep up with rigorous academics. He recruited Stanford legends like Andrew Luck, Shayne Skov, and Stepfan Taylor. Harbaugh brought these players together and led seasons so successful that they seemed unreal as a Stanford Cardinal fan.
Because of Harbaugh, Stanford is no longer the easy win on opponents schedule, but now, the game circled on calendars as a difficult matchup for opposing teams. In Harbaugh’s final season, the team went 12-1 and won the Orange Bowl. In fact, my dad thought going to a BCS bowl was a once in a lifetime opportunity for Stanford, so he flew across the country to see the team play. I’m glad he was wrong. Harbaugh started with a team that finished with one win just the year prior to his arrival and finished with a team that finished with only one loss; he literally built the program from the ground up. Now, Stanford has continued what Harbaugh started. Led by David Shaw, Stanford has gone to four more BCS bowls and three being the Grand Daddy of Them All. The Cardinal have dominated this decade all in thanks to what Harbaugh started.
Would Stanford have continued their success with Harbaugh leading the helm? Maybe not. Harbaugh flamed out after initial success with the 49ers, and that could’ve happened to Stanford as well. Meanwhile, David Shaw has been the perfect guy to keep the program’s longevity. I’m grateful for David Shaw as well, but just even more grateful Jim Harbaugh arrived at the Farm in 2007. Without Jim Harbaugh where would Stanford be right now?
What are you thankful for as a Stanford Cardinal fan this Thanksgiving?
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.
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