New QB Josh Nunes a SoCal kid, ‘Stanford man’

Josh Nunes grew up in the shadows of Southern California’s

championships.

He had family and friends with UCLA roots, and no hint of

football anywhere in his past.

Just a father who saw Stanford in his future.

Everything about the newly selected starting quarterback can be

traced back to a single moment.

Tim Nunes came home one day when Josh was 8 years old, sneaked

up from behind and plopped a red hat on his son’s head. Josh looked

at the logo, an ”S” with a tree in the middle, and smiled.

”He’s like, `Oh, what’s this?”’ his father said. ”I said,

`That’s where you belong. You’re going to go there one day.”’

Never mind that they had no connection to the university.

Something about his son’s smarts steered his father, who has a

degree from UCLA, to push aside the Bruins and Trojans hats that

day at the Chick’s Sporting Goods near the family’s home in Upland

and reach for the Cardinal cap.

Josh ”wore the heck of that hat,” he said, even if it often

fueled his friends.

He took French classes in high school because he read Stanford’s

admissions accepted more students who spoke that than Spanish as a

secondary language – ”French came in real handy in Southern

California,” he joked.

His first college game was watching Trent Edwards and Stanford

lose 21-0 to UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 30, 2004. He graduated

high school with a 4.6 grade-point average, turning down offers

from football powers Florida, Oklahoma and Tennessee among others

for the Silicon Valley school.

”It just goes to show you,” he said, ”that I always wanted to

be a Stanford man.”

Now Nunes is THE Stanford man.

The redshirt junior quarterback will make his first collegiate

start and begin the post-Andrew Luck era when No. 21 Stanford hosts

San Jose State on Friday night.

Walking on campus last week, Nunes already was recognized by

students and at least one elderly woman who promised to bring her

camera and ask for a photo next time.

”I’ve had to pinch myself to make sure it’s real,” said his

mother, Debbie.

Nunes grew up playing baseball, soccer and just about any sport

but football. He struck out all 18 batters in a Little League game

when he was 12 years old, his father said, and threw a four-seam

fastball clocked in the 90s in high school and an overhand

curve.

His dad, a private contractor, avoided Pop Warner Football

”like the plague” for fear of injuries and overbearing

coaches.

Not until flag football in the eighth grade did Nunes ever throw

a pigskin competitively, and he doesn’t even count freshman

football at Upland High School because ”I spent the whole year

learning everything.”

By the end of his sophomore season, then-Hawaii coach June Jones

offered him a scholarship. Soon Urban Meyer at Florida and coaches

from the Southeastern Conference to the renamed Pac-12 came

calling.

”It kind of took us back like, `Oh, this is something I might

want to look into,”’ Nunes said.

For Nunes, there really only was one choice.

He took recruiting visits to Stanford and Southern California

for baseball, too, but committed to Stanford as soon as former

football coach Jim Harbaugh offered him a scholarship and the

admission’s office approved his transcript.

Nunes is majoring in management science and engineering, which

he describes as an ”engineering degree with a business focus,”

particularly on entrepreneurship and start-ups.

He has taken an economics class taught by former Treasury Under

Secretary John Taylor and engineering classes run by former Defense

Secretary William Perry and nuclear policy expert Siegfried Hecker,

emeritus director of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

During a course last year, Nunes teamed with wide receiver Sam

Knapp and pitcher Mark Appel – the eighth overall pick by the

Pittsburgh Pirates who decided to return for his senior season –

formed their own start-up with a full-working website.

The idea was called ”Coachbook,” a website that allowed people

to connect with instructors in their area. They even pitched the

project to a panel of Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

”He was always one of the geek kids,” his father said.

Northern California has become almost a second home for the

Nunes family.

Josh’s younger brother, Justin, is a redshirt freshman

quarterback on the UC Davis team. The family tries to attend every

game for both, although this year will be the first time either has

played meaningful minutes.

Nunes threw two passes and completed one for 7 yards for

Stanford in 2010. On the third practice of training camp last year,

he dropped back to pass and stepped on running back Andrew Stutz’s

foot, tore a ligament underneath his right big toe, was in a boot

through the first five games and had a steel plate that was

completely rigid in his shoe when he returned to practice. He never

played a down.

Stutz and Nunes just so happened to be stretching partners

during the team’s first practice at Stanford Stadium on Friday

since Nunes won the quarterback competition against strong-armed

sophomore Brett Nottingham. Stutz playfully told Nunes: ”I got to

be careful. You’re the starting quarterback now.”

Nunes was selected the starter more for the way he runs

Stanford’s complex offense and protecting the ball than his ability

to make throws downfield, which is one of Nottingham’s

strengths.

In the end, second-year Stanford coach David Shaw said he chose

the quarterback who allows him to ”sleep well at night.”

”Of all the empirical evidence we collected,” Shaw said,

”Josh was the most consistent.”

Nunes knows replacing Luck, the two-time Heisman Trophy

runner-up and No. 1 overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts, will

not be easy.

He talks about how he’s ”not Andrew Luck” but good enough to

make sure Stanford doesn’t slip, how the offense has always been a

run-first, balanced approach and confidently saying ”I don’t think

we’re holding anything back. The coaches expect us to do everything

Andrew could do. Not to be Andrew, but to have the mental capacity

that he did is definitely expected of us.”

And perhaps why the competition to replace Luck lasted almost

eight months.

Shaw informed Nunes, Nottingham and redshirt freshman Kevin

Hogan of his decision before last Tuesday morning’s practice.

Shaw sent Nunes a text shortly after 6 a.m. to be in his office

later that morning – Nunes has been up by 5:45 a.m. each day

working out or receiving treatment – and the quarterback nervously

”got it like an hour after he sent it to be in his office

soon.”

Nunes said when Shaw broke the news ”it was just great to hear

him say it.” He sent two quick text messages to his parents before

practice.

His father had to fight tears. His mother Debbie, a business

analyst with 21 years at Southern California Edison utility, was in

the middle of what turned out to be a two-hour meeting with her

boss.

When she returned to her desk and learned the news on her phone,

she became so overwhelmed that co-workers began asking questions

during another colleague’s birthday luncheon.

”They thought my boss had done something to upset me,” she

said. ”I had to tell them that they were happy tears.”

The well wishes filtered in from teammates past and present,

friends back home and former Stanford players. Nunes talked to his

parents late that night. Luck’s text message to Nunes was ”typical

Andrew,” he said.

He congratulated Nunes and told him, ”Now it’s time to get to

work.”

Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP