"Nerd Nation" has spread to Los Angeles this week as No. 5 Stanford prepares for its Rose Bowl game battle with No. 4 Michigan State.
Long before LeBron James, Kevin Durant and the rest of the NBA made nerd-chic cool, students in Palo Alto, Calif., were dressing like that on a daily basis. Except they weren’t donning thick-rimmed glasses and pocket protectors to be cool, it was simply functional.
In a nod to their student body, the Stanford Football team has taken to dressing like nerds as well. Except at Stanford, the jocks are actually nerds themselves.
If you take 100 jocks but also take some of the smartest students in the country…you’re going to get an interesting combination of individuals.
-- Stanford Linebacker Shayne Skov
"Nerd Nation" has spread to Los Angeles this week as No. 5 Stanford prepares for its Rose Bowl game battle with No. 4 Michigan State. Some members of the team are some of the most accomplished students in the Pac-12, if not in the country. The dumb jock label doesn’t apply too much at Stanford, where it’s not completely implausible to think that a cure for cancer or a future president could come out of that locker room.
"If you take 100 jocks but also take some of the smartest students in the country and you combine those together, you’re going to get an interesting combination of individuals, different personalities," said linebacker Shayne Skov. "There’s tons of pranks going on. Discussions on, I don’t know, sometimes politics, maybe current events. Kind of a grab bag of what you’re going to get in there."
After the Cardinal took down Oregon to end the Ducks’ BCS Championship bid, they donned black glasses with tape on the bridge, and thus Nerd Nation became their thing.
Everyone else considers us just school guys that happen to play football. You know, nerds
-- Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney
Stanford is often referred to as the "Harvard of the West". But you don’t see Harvard making back-to-back BCS bowl appearances. The athletic program is one of the strongest in Division I from top-to-bottom, having produces numerous Olympians and professional athletes throughout its 36 varsity teams.
It’s the football team that is the most visible of those 36, and the football players have embraced their inner nerds over the last few seasons.
"Everyone else considers us just school guys that happen to play football. You know, nerds," said running back Tyler Gaffney. "We’ve embraced that aspect, but it’s more. Everyone at Stanford has their niche. They have their reason they’re at Stanford, they have their reason that they’re successful. There’s countless guys on this team that if football doesn’t work out for them at the next level, they’re going to be very successful in what they do.
Our team will embrace being a nerd and being successful at it.
-- Tyler Gaffney
"Whether it’s running a company, a CEO or whatnot, they’re going to be successful."
It translates to the field as well. Offensive coordinator Mike Bloomgren says his complex offense relies on intelligence. The coach even donned Google Glasses during his media session earlier this week to pay homage to the campus community.
Nerdiness is what makes the Cardinal quintessentially Stanford.
"I think as a whole, Nerd Nation really just embraces that," Gaffney said. "Our team will embrace being a nerd and being successful at it."