Brennan Scarlett returns to his home state of Oregon on Friday night as No. 21 Stanford faces Oregon State in Corvallis. The Portland native and fifth-year senior has been a force at defensive end for the 2-1 Cardinal in his first season with the program.
In three games, the transfer from Cal has made 12 tackles (1.5 for loss) and recovered a fumble for the first time in his career against University of Central Florida.
"I had hoped," said Stanford head coach David Shaw, when asked if he expected so much early production from Scarlett. "Seeing him on film before this year, he was so active and so athletic. And that's what we've gotten from him on top of being healthy and being in great shape and being strong.
"He's still learning, he's still growing," Shaw said. "This is a new position for him. It's a completely different world. We're counting on, by the end of the year, him being even better than he is now."
Scarlett admitted there was an adjustment period.
"It took a few weeks into the summer to get acclimated with the guys and then learning the playbook and getting back to football. I'm fully settled in now," Scarlett said. "What I love about Stanford is the culture that has been built here within the program the last few years -- very disciplined and the attention to detail. Things that relate to football, but also to real life, and the way you carry yourself and go about your business are driven home here every day."
After falling behind early against USC last Saturday night, the defense stiffened and the offense sizzled in a 41-31 victory in front of more than 78,000 spectators and a national television audience.
"Going down to the (Los Angeles) Coliseum and being in that atmosphere, it can rattle you," said Scarlett. "I don't know if that was it, but for me and some other guys, we kind of settled down in the second quarter and just played the game.
"That was a great experience. It was my first victory against the Trojans and it felt good."
Scarlett is pursuing a master's degree in management science and engineering.
"It's a full schedule," said Scarlett. "I'm getting into a routine and balancing school, studying, film and practice."
When Scarlett returned to campus last Saturday night from Los Angeles, his brother, Cameron, a freshman running back at Stanford who did not travel with the team, met him.
"I let him have the car for the weekend . . . trying to be a good big brother," Brennan said. "It was pretty cool to have him come pick me up from here. We embraced and celebrated the win. Just to have him here for those type of moments and then talk about the game is real special."
It will also be a homecoming for sophomore outside linebacker Joey Alfieri of Portland. His father, Phil, was a defensive end at Oregon State (1983-87) and his mother, Kelly ran track (1984-88), specializing in the 400 meter hurdles.
Asked who his parents would root for on Friday night, Alfieri said, "They've switched since I've been here."
Alfieri grew up about 90 minutes from Corvallis and attended a few football games. One of six children and the middle of five brothers, he will have no shortage of support.
"It's really exciting," said Alfieri. "It's always nice to have family and friends rooting for you."
Alfieri continues to make plays for the Cardinal on special teams and defense. Although he played inside linebacker in high school, Alfieri likes his new role and collected his first career sack against USC.
"It's a bit of a change," he said. "I think I've adapted well. I'm starting to feel more comfortable and explosive."
Long-time Stanford men's basketball fans will never forget 1998, when power forward Mark Madsen grabbed a loose ball under his own basket in the closing minute and made an emphatic dunk go give the Cardinal the lead against Rhode Island in the 1998 NCAA Mideast Regional final against Rhode Island.
Nicknamed "Mad Dog," he raised his arms and let out a primal scream, as Stanford advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA Tournament.
Madsen played for the Los Angeles Lakers and later returned to Graduate School of Business at Stanford before joining the Cardinal staff as an assistant coach. He now has a similar role with the Lakers.
Never short on enthusiasm, Madsen was Stanford's honorary captain last Saturday against USC. By all accounts, he was a smashing success, as the Cardinal upset the Trojans.
"He was definitely like a little kid in a candy shop . . . he just couldn't stop smiling," said fifth-year cornerback Ronnie Harris. "He was hyped up. We came to the sidelines right after the coin toss and he popped Blake (Martinez) and said, 'Let's go!' Blake got fired up and it got me riled up. We had to win that game."
Harris grew up watching Madsen play with the Lakers.
"I've been a Lakers fan since 1995, when my cousin, Eddie Jones, was drafted there," he said. "Mark Madsen kind of resembles me. A guy who is undersized but always willing to work. He won two championships by just being a junkyard dog. I admire that about him."
The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame announced this week that former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been selected the 2015 recipient of the NFF Gold Medal, becoming the first woman ever recognized by the organization in its 69 year history.
Rice, who grew up in Alabama as the daughter of a high school football coach, rose to the highest levels of power as the first female African-American U.S. Secretary of State, and now serves as the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution; and as a professor of political science at Stanford. She also serves on the College Football Playoff selection committee.
Rice will be honored during the National Football Foundation Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 8 in New York City.
Friday marks Stanford's third road game in four weeks. However, the team returns home for three consecutive games . . . Cardinal student-athletes started the fall quarter on Monday . . . Former Stanford assistant coach Dave Baldwin is now the offensive coordinator at Oregon State. He recently revealed that he drinks up to 18 diet colas every day, and has no health issues.