ESPOSITO: Gerhart behind Stanford resurgence

Nick Esposito

You probably don’t know who he is. I bet you wouldn’t notice him if he passed you on the street. I suppose you would walk by and dismiss him as just an abnormally large man and not as one of the nation’s most ferocious running backs. You may not recognize his face or remember his name, but I can guarantee that if you were a PAC-10 defender, you would never forget him.

Stanford star running back, Toby Gerhart, may quite possibly be the most underrated player in the country. Despite his great appetite for yards and his apparent addiction to the end zone, he has yet fully to catch the eyes of the national media. Few know that Gerhart is second in the nation in both rushing (1,395 yards) and touchdowns (19) in his first year starting for the Cardinal. That is nine more touchdowns and 102 yards more than Alabama’s Mark Ingram, who currently ranks No. 1 in “the official” ESPN Heisman rankings. But all of this begs the question, if this guy is so great, why don’t we all know about him? I don’t even think the brainiest nerd at Stanford could come up with a logical answer to this one.

It is not as if Gerhart has sneaked up on us. Gerhart played football and baseball and was a top student during high school, garnering a 4.6 GPA. He led Norco High School in California to the CIF Division 5 Southern football championship and scored an insane amount of touchdowns along the way.

At the end of his career, Gerhart finished with the third-highest career total of rushing yards in the entire country with 9,662 yards, which is 706 yards more than NFL Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith. He was recruited to Stanford for both sports and has been a key contributor to the Cardinal’s rebuilding efforts since he arrived.

The Cardinal team has focused its offense completely around Gerhart. Stanford has a complex playbook but, in reality, the only three plays that they need to run is, Gerhart to the left, Gerhart to the right and Gerhart straight up the middle. Gerhart’s running attack plows the way for an effective Andrew Luck passing attack. PAC 10 teams should adopt the strategy of shutting down number seven, Gerhart. Stanford’s three losses directly correlate to three of his lowest rushing totals of the season. That, of course, may be easier said than done. The Cardinal is the PAC 10 dark horse that has quietly developed a Rose Bowl agenda of its own.

Over the past two weeks the Cardinal has shaken up the PAC-10 standings. Two weeks ago they went duck hunting against Oregon. The Ducks were fresh off of a dominating win over Southern California and they were quite confident they would finish the sweep of the PAC 10’s Golden State squads (California, UCLA, USC and Stanford). But the Ducks walked into the wrong stadium on the wrong day and were welcomed by the bull of Gerhart who was seeing red. Gerhart rushed for 38 carries, 223 yards (school record) and three touchdowns on the Cardinal’s way to a 51-42 shootout victory.

Once a road apple on their way to the Rose Bowl, the Trojans often overlooked their weaker Northern California foe. Gerhart led the charge with 29 carries, 178 yards and three touchdowns as the Cardinal thrashed Southern Cal. USC is a storied program that has never given up 55 points in a game. This pivotal win not only boosts Gerhart’s hype, but also gives Stanford a new swagger for their postseason run.

Then why, despite his impressive PAC-10 statistical resume, a 3.7 GPA and a disdain for the health of opposing players can’t this engineering major gain any Heisman hype? The Stanford faithful of the Bay Area can’t even blame East Coast bias for the lack of press because seven out of the last nine Heisman winners have not played anywhere near the Atlantic Ocean.

With a Doak Walker Award (nation’s best running back) looking more and more likely, is the Heisman something that Gerhart and Stanford even want? The Cardinal is bowl-eligible for the first time since 2001, and they haven’t won a bowl game since 1996. Heisman winners haven’t faired well in the postseason recently. Those who get the ultimate hardware have gone one and five over the past six years. If you ask Gerhart, he would rather have the bowl win than the Heisman. That is just the type of person he is: humble.

It is true that he doesn’t play for a Texas or a USC. He doesn’t have a name like Colt McCoy or the flare of CJ Spiller. The media doesn’t consider him partially divine like they do for Tim Tebow. He is just a bruiser who gets the job done. He has a neck wider than the “make-out willow tree” and dishes out more hits than Brad Lidge in the ninth inning. He is simply a dominating football player that America better get to know soon. I am officially beginning the East Coast, “Go Gerhart” campaign as we work to give Gerhart the Heisman.


Nick Esposito is a junior communication major from Skillman, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].