Sports

Honors are nice, but Stanford's focus is now on the Rose Bowl

 

Stanford senior guard Joshua Garnett intended to enjoy his time in Atlanta, where he received the Outland Award as the nation's top offensive lineman. It was better than he anticipated.

For one thing, Garnett discovered Waffle House, a national chain with a big presence in Georgia and not so much along the West Coast.

"It was the first time I've eaten there, it was delicious," Garnett offered. "I love Atlanta. I had a great experience and had fun with it."

Garnett, who will complete his college career with a third trip to the Rose Bowl in four years on January 1, 2016, against Iowa, became the first Stanford player to be honored with the Outland.

He'd already earned the Morris Trophy as the Pac-12 Conference's top lineman and learned Wednesday he became a consensus first team All-American, earning recognition from all five of the recognized sponsors.

That's one better than Cardinal sophomore running back Christian McCaffrey, who was named first team on four of the teams and second on one.

McCaffrey, of course, enjoyed a trip to New York City for the Heisman Trophy spectacular, where he finished second in the voting to Derrick Henry of Alabama.

McCaffrey was also the runner-up to Henry for the Maxwell Trophy (for most outstanding player) and the Doak Walker Cup (top running back).

He did, however, win the Paul Hornung Award as the nation's most versatile football player, a fitting tribute to the 19-year-old who set a NCAA record with 3,496 all-purpose yards.

McCaffrey also took home the Chic Hartley Award, given by the Touchdown Club of Columbus (Ohio) to college's top player as selected by a committee of football coaches. It was first awarded in 1955.

Garnett, who had a fascination for college football growing up, especially linemen, thought it would be great to win the Outland.

"Little kids always have something to look up to, like a superhero, a dad, a mom, or a pro athlete," Garnett said. "I watched a lot of college football and once I learned about the Outland, I always thought about the guys who were the best of the best. To be able to live out my dream has made this a fun year."

For all the attention and recognition Garnett and McCaffrey received since the Cardinal (11-2) won the conference title, there was nothing better than returning to Stanford and sharing the honors with their teammates.

"It's a team thing," McCaffrey said. "You have to have all 11 guys doing their jobs for individual accolades. You see unbelievable people deserving of these honors who don't get them. I'm blessed to have this offense."

Garnett said the best thing about winning the award was being able to bring it back to his teammates.

"You see them happy makes me happy," Garnett said. "It really does belong to all of us. Ever since I've been here, and even in high school, Stanford always had an All-American on the offensive line. It's great to keep the tradition going. To do it with these guys is special. They all deserve the trophy."

Cardinal coach David Shaw said the offensive line played as well as any in the country, and that the four returning starters were consistently better.

"The mistakes were kept to a minimum," Shaw said. "Josh Garnett was phenomenal. He had a great year. Graham Schuler played his best football. Everybody played better after a year of experience."

Garnett is just as excited to be back on the football field getting ready to play another game with his teammates.

"We've all put in this work together and we're all so close," he said. "We got a break and now we're back in full pads. It's exciting to be going to another Rose Bowl and it's nice to get back out there."

McCaffrey was probably happier for Garnett than for himself.

"It was exciting to see him get what he deserves," McCaffrey said. "To see him so happy is so cool. I'm the luckiest back in college football running behind him. When you see the boys happy, you're happy. It's a family thing. You want to share it."

McCaffrey rubbed elbows with some of the best to ever play the game when he was in New York.

"You have to cherish it," he said. "You get to meet cool people and have fun."

Unlike Garnett, McCaffrey will be playing in his first Rose Bowl. The Cardinal played in the Foster Farms Bowl at Levi's Stadium last year.

"I am extremely excited," McCaffrey said. "We get to play an unbelievable opponent."

On the injury front, cornerback Ronnie Harris and linebacker Blake Martinez are both expected to be ready to go for the game, while fullback Daniel Marx is out and may miss the opening of spring practice.

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