Sports

Marecic getting down to business one more time for Stanford

 

==B By Rick Eymer

Palo Alto Online Sports

Owen Marecic likely will cut his hair, shoulder length and golden these days, following Stanford's appearance at the Orange Bowl in Miami on Jan. 3. His girlfriend may not like the idea, but Marecic has good intentions.

"I like to donate it, that's why I decided to grow it so long," Marecic said last week. "I was inspired by my grandmother, and other close friends, who passed away."

If Stanford's opponent in the Orange Bowl -- Virginia Tech -- believes in the Samson and Delilah myth, the Mountaineers would do well to coax him into a barbershop well ahead of the football game. Marecic, a two-way starter for the Stanford football team at fullback and middle linebacker, currently has the strength, stamina and wisdom to contain the ability of two full-time players within one body.

As low-key as Marecic appears during a press conference, he's just as fierce and intense on the football field.

"I like being on the football field wherever that may be," said Marecic, a human biology major. "It's been a lot of fun."

Marecic said his haircut will be under the radar, that he'll just cut it and not tell anyone about it. It's the way he'd prefer his football career to unfold, as well. Unfortunately, the only player to start both ways in Division I football this season has been noticed: he finished 10th in the Heisman Trophy voting this year.

"That was awesome," Stanford senior nose tackle Sione Fua said. "He deserved those votes plus many more. It was great recognition for him."

Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck, who finished second in the balloting, said Marecic seemed unfazed by it.

"He said, 'oh cool,'" Luck said. "I was more excited that he got so many votes than he was. But he's a disciplined guy and he takes care of his body perfectly. He has to because he takes so much punishment in practice and games."

Marecic's transformation from Toby Gerhart's personal blocker (who helped Gerhart lead the nation in rushing last year) to one of the top collegiate defensive and offensive players was born out of necessity. Injuries took their toll at the linebacker position last year, creating a void.

"We lost depth there and that's kind of how it started," Marecic said. "I always trusted the coaches. I wouldn't play both ways just for sake of doing it. Through training camp and spring ball I prepared like it was going to happen."

Marecic acknowledged the going was rough in the beginning but once he built a "mental foundation" he rapidly adjusted to the workload.

"What a remarkable journey he's been on," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. "It's been a positive thing for the football team and for Owen. The amazing thing is that he really got stronger. He maintained his weight and prepared himself so thoroughly that he trained harder than normal."

Fua described practice days when Marecic would finish with the offense and jog into the defensive huddle without a word of complaint.

"He's the only guy on the team who has the physical ability to do that," Fua said. "He never takes a down off. He's a great teammate."

Marecic's longest break arrives after every score. He gets a minute or two "to breathe and grab water."

Marecic is one of three finalists for the Paul Hornung Award, presented to the nation's most versatile football player. He was a finalist for the Campbell Award and received three first-place votes for the Heisman Trophy.

"How cool is that?" Harbaugh said. "People understood this was not a publicity stunt. It was real. People who understand football knew what was taking place. He played middle linebacker and fullback, the two most physical positions on the field. Outside of the quarterback it's also the most demanding mentally. He had to learn every facet of the game and be adept at making adjustments."

Against Notre Dame, Marecic scored a touchdown as a fullback, and then 13 seconds later, returned an interception for a touchdown, becoming the first player to score an offensive and defensive touchdown in the same game in four years.

Typical of Marecic, he praised running back Stepfan Taylor for getting the Cardinal in position to score the first touchdown and the defensive line for the pressure that caused the interception on the second.

"I didn't really realize it was back-to-back or anything," Marecic said. "I was just excited we could get some points on the board at a pretty critical time of the game."

Marecic, who has never been to Miami, says he has no particular plans to do anything special.

"It's a business trip," he said.

Just don't expect Marecic to be wearing a suit on game day.

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