Brennan Scarlett retains ties with the University of California, where he earned a degree and played football for three years, missing his junior year to injury.
Stanford's first-ever graduate transfer, Scarlett will be playing in his first Big Game on Saturday (7:30 p.m. kickoff) as a member of the 15th-ranked Cardinal football team. The game is sold out.
"Can't write it any better than that," Scarlett said. "It's a blessing to have made it this far into the season. I haven't made it this far in a long time."
Knee and hand injuries have prevented the defensive end from playing any more than nine games in previous seasons. He's made through all 10 this year and may be looking at four more.
Scarlett became the first in 50 years to play football for both California and Stanford. This week has been typical in some ways and atypical in other ways. He keeps his California wardrobe in his closet and followed the Bears as they became bowl eligible for the first time since Scarlett's freshman season.
"I'm definitely excited to get out there," Scarlett said. "Looking forward to playing against my alma mater. It's going to be a great experience."
Stanford (8-2 overall, 7-1 Pac-12) will advance to the Pac-12 Championship Game with a victory over the Bears, while California (6-4, 3-4) can advance its bowl opportunities and kick the Cardinal out of the title game with a victory.
It's a Big Game with major consequences.
The Bears snapped a four-game losing streak with a 54-24 pasting of visiting Oregon State last weekend. Stanford had its eight-game winning streak come to a screeching halt, as the Cardinal suffered a 38-36 home loss to Oregon.
Scarlett will be part of a plan to pressure California quarterback Jared Goff, a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award, who has thrown for 3,324 yards and 30 touchdowns.
There are more people in Scarlett's family rooting for Stanford than Cal. The lineage dates to his great grandfather, who attended Stanford, as did his grandfather, uncle and several cousins. Scarlett's father ran track at BYU and his brother Cam is currently a student at Stanford. In fact, Scarlett got the idea to look at Stanford for graduate school because of his brother. He also looked at USC and Notre Dame.
"Stanford is the perfect fit," he said. "I wanted a program I could finish in one year so I could retain my NFL aspirations. The first time I visited I walked into the weight room. I'm sure they were all wondering who I was."
Stanford linebacker Blake Martinez said he was a little leery of Scarlett at first but was put at ease over dinner.
"I spent a couple of hours with him and it was cool to see his personality," Martinez said. "He's a hard worker and he does the extra things. When Harrison (Phillips) went down, his role jumped up. We needed him and he's shown how important he is."
Scarlett was still rehabbing when he got to Stanford and had to learn a new position.
"It's been tough," said Stanford head coach Davis Shaw. "He had a lot to learn from the playbook and had a lot to learn technique-wise once he could play. He's willing to learn. He wants to do it right."
Scarlett, who has 26 tackles, including 3 1/2 sacks, 5 1/2 tackles for loss, six quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery, said the adjustment was not hard.
"I wouldn't say it was overly difficult because these guys over here are great guys," he said. "But the culture is definitely different around here. You earn your respect around here. I was the new guy, I was the older guy. But it was cool. It was an easy transition."
Meanwhile the game also features two of the top quarterbacks in the Pac-12. Shaw goes even further.
"This game has the two best quarterbacks in a conference with a lot of good quarterbacks," Shaw said. "If I had one guy to start in a game we needed to win, I'd pick one of these guys. That's saying something. They have different styles but they're both very good at what they do."
Goff matched his own school record with six touchdown passes in the win over the Beavers.
Shaw called him "awesome. Tall, long, great arm, paints the sidelines from the far hash marks, throws tight spirals right where you want them. He's a good kid, a humble kid and a heck of a football player. It's easy to root for a guy like him."
Cardinal quarterback Kevin Hogan may not throw for as many yards, he has run for over 250 more yards and has a better passing efficiency rating than Goff.
"Kevin Hogan has been one of the most consistent players in this league since I've been in this league," Cal coach Sonny Dykes said. "He gives them a chance to win every Saturday and that's about the best thing you say about a quarterback."