Sports

There's some big ambitions heading into the annual Big Game

Menlo School grad Wilcox-Fogel would like to end his career with a win before heading to Washington, D.C.

Nate Wilcox-Vogel became energized by the current political atmosphere and plans to take action. Once he's completed his course work at Stanford he's heading to Washington, D.C.

His dream job? He'd like to serve as a personal aide to someone high up in the Obama administration. He'd settle for an entry level job at the Pentagon or Department of Defense.

Wilcox-Fogel still has some unfinished business before he heads to Washington to pursue his ambitions. There's a matter of the Big Game (at California, kickoff scheduled for 12:30 p.m.), his last one as a Stanford football player, and he's still pinching himself a little bit.

"I can't believe it's here," said the Menlo School grad, who began his college football career as a walk-on five years ago. "I grew up in Los Altos and San Jose and this rivalry was part of my life. My parents went here, my sister went here. I love playing this game. I love everything about it. I'm a little sad this is my last go around."

Wilcox-Vogel, a two-time all-San Mateo County pick, helped take Menlo School to the Central Coast Section football playoffs in his senior year, leading the PAL Ocean Division in receptions both as a junior and senior under then coach Jimmy Noriega, a Stanford grad himself.

He played his first football game as a sophomore at Menlo, after petitioning his parents for the chance.

On Sept. 23, 2006, in Stanford's 36-10 loss to visiting Washington State, Wilcox-Fogel officially became a major college football player, stepping on the field for the first time after sitting and watching the previous two years. He recovered a fumble.

Interestingly enough, quarterback Tavita Pritchard also made his college debut in the contest, as did Menlo School grad Charlie Hazlehurst.

"How about Nate Wilcox-Fogel," Harbaugh said, "He was on the radio show this week and I was impressed with how he articulated his thoughts and emotions. He wants to go to Washington and enter the political arena. I don't know what party affiliation he is, but he's got my vote. If Wilcox-Fogel was a stock, I'd buy it. I'd like 20 percent stock in Nate Wilcox-Fogel."

After spending four years as a walk-on, Wilcox-Fogel was awarded a football scholarship for his senior year at Stanford, although with senior linebacker Thaddeus Chase and senior placekicker Aaron Zagory.

"Four years of not knowing how it was going to work out," he said. "It was blind faith and hard work and I like to believe hard work will be rewarded. The scholarship allowed me to come back this year."

All the time and effort also led to playing time, and respect from his teammates.

"He was a walk-on for a while and I've always had a different kind of a respect for those guys," Pritchard said. "They do everything we do but they don't get school paid for. He's a tremendous guy and I'm good friends with him. He's a special teams guy and they are a different breed as well. He embodies that. He has the personality for it. I know for coach Durkin, he's one of his favorites."

A hand injury has kept Wilcox-Fogel from playing receiver this year, although he has worked with Pritchard. He's taken to his role on special teams like Romeo took to Juliet.

"I love special teams," he said. "It couldn't have turned out any better. I get to play football in the Pac-10, with my parents at every game and playing in front of people I grew up with."

Wilcox-Fogel also has his own personal Big Game highlight. Stanford went ahead, 7-0, in the first quarter last year. On the ensuing kickoff Wilcox-Fogel flattened Cal's Lavelle Hawkins before he could get to the 10-yard line. It was an oft-replayed highlight, punctuated by Wilcox-Fogel's celebratory response. He doesn't watch it much. He doesn't have to.

"I replay it in my mind a lot," he said. "It was my first Big Game, it was in the new stadium, and it was my first axe."

He had nearly resigned himself to attending an Ivy League school for the chance to play football, even as Cardinal flowed in his veins and genes. When Buddy Teevens allowed him the opportunity to walk on, there was not a chance he would turn it down.

Wilcox-Fogel was "a little but intimidated" by the facilities, and by the size and speed of his teammates. It didn't take long to assimilate himself. Then it just became a waiting game.

He's yet to even meet local politicians but he's looking forward to incorporate his interest in politics with his interest in public service.

Both parents are politically active, and Wilcox-Fogel was raised with political discourse. His father, Jeremy Fogel, is a federal judge in San Jose. His mother, Kathleen Wilcox, teaches early education.

Perhaps as important as playing football at Stanford was meeting Cory Booker, a former Cardinal football player who is the mayor of Newark.

"He was phenomenally inspiring," Wilcox-Fogel said. "He sent a strong message trying to inspire people of my generation. I never had friends who would tale politics until this election. It's an exciting time. Just looking at my parents and seeing the joy on their faces says something. I just want to get there and see what job there is for me."

He wouldn't mind keeping the axe at Stanford and getting a chance to play in a bowl game, either.

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