Two-sport athletes with top-notch grades have come through the athletic department at Stanford University before and it's that experience that was just one reason why the Cardinal has landed one of the most prominent Southern California football recruits in years.
On Wednesday night at his home in Norco, the 2005 CalHiSports.com Mr. Football State Player of the Year, Toby Gerhart, told Stanford head coach Walt Harris and main assistant Wayne Moses that he would be signing a letter of intent with their university next month.
Gerhart is a 6-1, 228-pound running back with 4.5 speed who led his Norco High team to a 13-1 record and the CIF Southern Section Div. V championship. He rushed for a state-leading 3,233 yards and scored 39 TDs, including 458 yards and six TDs in a semifinal playoff game and 441 yards and six TDs in an outing against state-ranked Corona Centennial.
From a statistical standpoint, Gerhart in fact could be the most prominent football recruit from California that Stanford has ever landed. He ended his career with 9,662 yards rushing, which is a new state record. He broke the old record by more than 1,000 yards and ended with 108 career TDs, which also is among the state's best ever totals.
"I feel good and I'm relieved that it's over," Gerhart told CalHiSports.com about an hour before the Stanford coaches were scheduled to arrive at his house. "I've kind of done it in reverse order as I've told the other schools that were recruiting me that I was going to Stanford before actually telling Stanford. I wanted the other schools to hear it from me and not from someone else."
Gerhart took his official trip to Stanford last weekend and it was a trip that pulled the Cardinal in front of UCLA, his other top choice.
"It was a great trip and I felt real comfortable with the other players and the coaches," Gerhart said. "It was between Stanford and UCLA and after the UCLA trip it was pretty even. But I just waited for the Stanford trip and that one sealed it all."
Gerhart also happens to be a student with perfect grades – he's No. 1 academically in his senior class of nearly 700 students – and he's one of the top baseball prospects in the country as well. Gerhart posted the top SPARQ rating of any baseball player in the nation last summer and was a standout at the prestigious Area Code Games. He's an outfielder in baseball and it's possible he could be a high draft pick in June, but athletes going to Stanford usually are considered not signable by major league teams.
"Definitely, the academics are the best and Stanford is just so prestigious," said Gerhart, when asked why he chose the Cardinal.
"It's also a high quality football program that's on the rise and the baseball program has been good forever," he continued. "From the beginning, they've been willing to work with me as a two-sport athlete. How they've handled it in the past has been real appealing."
John Elway, Chad Hutchinson, Brian Johnson, Joe Borchard and Tommy Vardell are just a few of those who've gone to Stanford in recent years as two-sport athletes on the football team. There's also many more on the women's side, including current basketball All-American Candice Wiggins (also a volleyball player).
Gerhart had the opportunity to appear on a Southern California TV show and commit on the air, but he declined the invitation.
"That's just not me," he said. "I've seen it where the player grabs the different hats and then finally puts on the one where he's going to. To me, that's not something to play around with. These recruiters have dealt with me for a long time and I don't want any of them to be misled for a second that I might be coming to their school."