By Rick Eymer
Palo Alto Online Sports
There's a little bit of Palo Alto football coach Earl Hansen in Stanford football coach Jim Harbaugh.
The former Vikings' quarterback said he's tried to emulate many of the things Hansen taught him over the years.
"Coach Hansen is a great coach, a great man and a great teacher," Harbaugh said Wednesday as Stanford heads into its final preparations before departing for the Jan. 3 Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech. "He cares about people and makes you feel that when you're with him, whether you're on the frosh-soph, a junior or senior. He'll always ask about a family member or your biology class."
So when Palo Alto won the state title game over the weekend, Harbaugh was ecstatic.
"Talk about a coaching job," Harbaugh said. "There's the best coach on the peninsula, in the Bay Area. He did a phenomenal job and this is his finest season."
Hansen and Harbaugh speak with each other quite a bit, especially with his son, Peter Hansen, a member of the coaching staff.
"He keeps in contact with a lot of people," Harbaugh said. "You never really leave an Earl Hansen program. It feels like you've never left high school. His passion for the game remains and he's still as intense as the day I met him. That's a rare quality. Those are the qualities I try to emulate and see if I can measure up to him. If you're a Palo Alto Vikings alumni, or a Stanford alumni, or both, then these are tremendous days."
Stanford redshirt sophomore quarterback Andrew Luck has been to Miami once, when he was about 10 years old.
"I just remember going to the beach," he said. "That's really about it."
Does he want to do or see anything in particular on the trip?
"Not really, just get a win," he said.
Luck will remain in the area over the two-day Christmas break given to the Cardinal players.
"I've been traveling a lot the last couple of weeks," he said. "I'd rather relax. It sucks not being with family on Christmas but there will be other Christmases."
Sione Fua and Owen Marecic have never been to South Florida either, but both maintained it was a "business trip."
"I'll enjoy the activities the Bowl committee has for us," Fua said. "I hope its nice weather and going to the beach would be nice."
Harbaugh began noticing a change in people's perception of Stanford football last year when Toby Gerhart helped the Cardinal reach the Sun Bowl.
"I dropped off a rental car at 6 a.m. in Dallas," Harbaugh recalled. "I just had on a sweatshirt with no identifying marks. The guy yells, 'Hey Harbaugh, Toby Gerhart is a beast.'"
Luck said he's noticed more students getting into the spirit "but nothing too crazy or obtrusive."
Luck did rid himself of popular social media sites online and said he will "stay rid of it."
When Fua was a freshman and part of the team that struggled to a 1-11 season, he remembers a humanities instructor who told him to 'sack the quarterback more and we'll win more games.'
"I'd say 99 percent of the professors here are big athletic fans," Fua said. "They'll recognize people from any sport and have them stand for an ovation."