Photo credit: gostanford.com
By Ana Kieu
During the Stanford Cardinal bye week, Casey Toohill received a book from his girlfriend called “Trillion Dollar Coach” by Eric Schmidt. The fifth-year senior outside linebacker dug in immediately.
A New York Times and Wall Street Journal #1 bestseller, the book chronicles the life of late Bay Area businessman Bill Campbell, who played football at Columbia and came west to become VP of Marketing and board director for Apple Inc. and CEO of Claris, Intuit and GO Corporation.
A mentor to many CEO’s in Silicon Valley, Campbell also became chairman of the board at Columbia and cherished character, leadership and academics. In 1990, the NFF recognized the first William V. Campbell Trophy recipient, awarded to the top student-athlete in college football. Nominees must be seniors in their final year of eligibility and maintain at least a 3.20 GPA.
Last week, Toohill was selected one of 12 NFF National Scholar-Athlete finalists from an initial list of 185 semifinalists. The San Diego native carries a 3.71 GPA in political science and will earn his degree in December. He’s a three-time Pac-12 All-Academic honoree and was selected CoSIDA Academic All-District in 2017.
As a finalist, Toohill will earn an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship, and travel to New York on December 10 for the NFF Awards Dinner, when the overall winner will be announced and receive a $25,000 scholarship.
“Obviously, Mr. Campbell was a legend,” said Toohill. “Hearing people’s stories about their interaction with him and what he meant to them makes me honored to even be considered for the award. He made such an impact on so many lives, and it’s something I strive to do.”
In August, the annual Campbell Summit was held at Stanford, bringing together finalists from previous years for lectures, group discussions and visits to Bay Area companies. Toohill attended several functions after practice.
“The number of thoughtful and successful individuals there really stood out to me,” Toohill said. “I sat in on a few of the lectures and it was all these impressive people from the business world. I was just blown away.”
Toohill quickly realized the significance of the award.
“The amount of respect and admiration people had for Mr. Campbell struck me from the start,” he said.
Toohill leads the Cardinal in tackles (45), sacks (5.0), tackles for loss (7.5), quarterback hurries (9) and has forced one fumble. His sack total ranks third in the Pac-12 and he’s tied for fifth in tackles for loss.
Voted a team captain, Toohill hopes to play pro football and attend business school, with an eye on nonprofit work.
“From the moment he got here, he’s been a high-effort, try-to-do-everything-right, pour-himself-into-everything-he-does guy,” said David Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. “That’s how he was raised and who he is. So, it’s not a surprise he’s on that list.”
Shaw believes strongly that every student-athlete in the country should strive for excellence in sports and academics. Toohill has done that and developed into a respected team leader.
“This recognition is very significant and very well deserved,” Shaw said. “Casey is energetic, positive and focused. Nothing would make us happier than for him to win that award.”
Senior quarterback K.J. Costello has looked good in practice this week and will start for the second consecutive game on Saturday, when Stanford (4-4, 3-3 Pac-12) travels to Colorado (3-6, 1-5 Pac-12) for a 12 pm PT kickoff. Junior backup Davis Mills practiced Tuesday and Wednesday and will make the trip, but his availability has yet to be determined. Senior inside linebacker Curtis Robinson is doubtful, but could return next week against Washington State.
Stanford coaches and players said the bye week came at a good time.
“It was more a shutoff and recovery time,” said senior defensive tackle Michael Williams. “At the end of the week, we started watching Colorado film and a little bit of us. It was more relax, recover and get ready for this last four-game stretch.”
The coaching staff also got a break, but most, including Shaw, hit the recruiting trail.
Shaw was able to watch Stanford alum Christian McCaffrey play against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium.
Shaw’s biggest takeaways on the season so far are the number of injuries his team has sustained, but also the justification of the program’s recruiting.
“I say that because a lot of teams would not be able to handle what we’ve had to handle this year,” Shaw said. “Whether it’s a depth standpoint and to be able to put three freshmen on the offensive line and start a freshman at nickel and corner and be able to perform. To be able to have 105 players pulling in the same direction when you lose three games in a row and still come together.”
Shaw praised his players for hanging tough through tough times.
“There’s going to be times when things are difficult,” Shaw said. “I can’t say enough about the people we have in our locker room that are fiery, energetic, passionate and want to go out and play together and win. They have each other’s backs.”
Colorado enters with a five-game losing streak but is talented on both sides of the ball and tough at home.
Offensively, the Buffaloes mix pass and run and have a heady and mobile quarterback in senior Steven Montez.
“He doesn’t panic,” said Shaw.
Montez has explosive wide receivers in junior Laviska Shenault and senior Tony Brown, who have combined for 85 catches for 1,154 yards and eight touchdowns.
Shaw called Shenault one of the top receivers in the country.
“Everybody in the secondary has to know where that guy is on every play,” said Shaw. “He’s one of the best in America at what he does. We have to recognize that and make sure we keep him in front of us and bring as many guys to the party as possible and try to get him on the ground.”
Williams credits more depth up front for the line’s continued improvement.
“The past couple years, we only had three or four guys to put on the field,” he said. “This year, we throw everybody out there. It’s more being able to throw waves at people and we have more interchangeable parts.”
Williams said a player to watch is senior defensive end Thomas Schaffer, who was born in Vienna, Austria. He is one of six Stanford players who stands 6-foot-7.
“Thomas has gotten very big and very fast,” said Williams. “That’s a grown man out there. His strength and his length … Nobody can deal with that. When he puts his mind to it, he can do anything he wants.”
Boulder is 5,328 feet above sea level and the higher elevation is an adjustment for most visiting teams.
“There’s really not much you can do,” said Shaw. “Usually, it takes about a quarter-and-a-half.”
Shaw said the most important factor is being mentally prepared. He will substitute as needed to keep players fresh.
“I played at Utah two years ago,” said Williams said. “You get used to it. It’s just football at the end of the day.”
Saturday’s forecast called for sunny skies with a high of 67 degrees and zero chance of rain.
Blake Stenstrom, a redshirt freshman and the backup quarterback for the Buffaloes, has close ties to Stanford. His father, Steve, was a standout quarterback for the Cardinal (1991-94) and still holds many records, including career passing yards (10,911), passing attempts (1,380) and completions (866). He also maintains single-season standards for pass attempts (455) and passing yards (3,627). Stenstrom was inducted into the Stanford Athletics Hall of Fame in 2016.
Stenstrom’s wife, Lori, was an accomplished swimmer at Stanford. She was a multiple NCAA champion, an American record holder and swam for the U.S. National Team. Their daughter Brooke is currently a senior at Stanford and competes for the women’s swim team. A four-time team captain in high school and at Stanford, she was a member of the 2017, 2018 and 2019 NCAA title squads.
“Steve and I were here at the same time and became really good friends,” said Shaw, who played wide receiver for the Cardinal. “Actually, we met at Stanford Football Camp and came in as freshmen together and became friends. We lived together in suites on the back side of campus our sophomore year and we just had our 25th reunion.
“I remember the pictures when Blake was born. It’s still so weird. We’re at that age where we do doubletakes. When I printed out pictures of guys on the other team (Colorado), I thought, oh my gosh, I still can’t believe he’s in college.”
“Blake is an outstanding human being. He’s very, very smart, and a good football player. I look forward to giving him a hug before and after the game.”
Stanford needs two wins to make it to the postseason. “I’m not even thinking about bowl games,” said Shaw. “Our charge is to play our best football.” … Through eight games, 35 Stanford players have started at least one contest … 15 true freshmen have played and seven have started. The latter is the second-most nationally behind Alabama (9) … The Cardinal has utilized five different starting offensive line combinations. Only twice — Oregon State and Washington — has Stanford used the same starting five in consecutive games … Junior cornerback Paulson Adebo is tied for fifth in the FBS with 14 total passes defended. In three October games, he intercepted three passes, had five pass breakups and collected nine tackles … Costello now has 5,906 career passing yards, the ninth-most in school history, and 5,997 yards of total offense, the ninth-most in Stanford history. His 48 career touchdown passes are tied for sixth, and his 477 career completions and 762 attempts are tied for 10th.
“Be calm in the midst of chaos.” — K.J. Costello on playing quarterback.