New QB Josh Nunes a SoCal kid, ‘Stanford man’
Josh Nunes grew up in the shadows of Southern California’s
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
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
His dad, a private contractor, avoided Pop Warner Football
”like the plague” for fear of injuries and overbearing
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
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
”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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Follow Antonio Gonzalez at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP