By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
Stanford senior defensive back Johnson Bademosi is good enough to dream of becoming an Olympian. In fact, he made it clear Tuesday that if pro football doesn't work, he'll try to make the United States Olympic Rugby team.
That's right, rugby. It's the sport that pre-dated American football and was played on most college campuses at the dawn of the 20th century. This is no "Back to the Future," though. Rugby has steadily been making strides over the years and will be introduced to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 edition.
"It's a different kind of fun," said Bademosi, who played the sport at his high school in Maryland. "It's not like you're looking to give the ball to a running back; everybody gets to handle the ball."
Stanford is big in the rugby world and has one of the best facilities for the sport in the world. The university has hosted its share of national championships, and the Stanford women (club team) have won a handful of titles. Cal continues its dominance in the men's realm.
Howell a heavy hitter
Maybe it's revenge for all the times he was hit as a running back before changing positions, or maybe its just because he's a solid athlete.
Whatever the case, Cardinal senior strong safety Delano Howell is known as the hardest hitter on the team.
"There's no question," Stanford coach David Shaw said. "Standing on the sideline and hearing some of those pops, it's very refreshing."
Bademosi confirmed that with no hesitation.
"I can tell you from personal experience he hits very, very hard," said Bademosi, whom Howell mistook for a wide receiver during one practice. "He's fearless and knows how to shoot his gun. He's a powerful person."
Bademosi and safety Michael Thomas are tied for the team lead, each with 22 tackles. Howell and linebacker Max Bergen are next, each with 21. Howell and Bademosi each have four pass break ups.
Not that Shaw pays particular attention to the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, though he's a regular voter, but he thought it interesting that Wisconsin moved ahead of the Cardinal despite enjoying its bye week.
"We have no expectations for rankings because that is people's opinion," Shaw said. "But to drop to a team during its bye week? That's interesting. It must have been some bye week."
Redshirt sophomore defensive end Ben Gardner didn't even realize what had happened.
"All we can do is keep winning," he said. "We'll let the polls take care of themselves."
Stanford ranks seventh in the AP poll and fifth in the coaches' poll.