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December 29, 2013

Rose Bowl Media Day: Ben Gardner



Ben Gardner missed the season's final five games and won't be able to play in the 100th Rose Bowl with a torn pectoral muscle, but the fifth-year senior is a still a visible and significant presence within the Stanford football program. Gardner has continued to attend practices and film sessions since the injury, and remains a leader on the field and in the Cardinal locker room.

Cardinal Sports Report caught up with Gardner at Rose Bowl Media Day in Los Angeles on Sunday morning to discuss his rehab process, his five years on The Farm, and the progress of Stanford's younger defensive linemen.

Cardinal Sports Report: First, how are you doing? How are you feeling?

Ben Gardner: I'm doing great. Rehab is coming along really well. And I'm just happy to be down here with the team, the last week together as a senior class and then as a whole team, obviously. So just trying to soak it all in and enjoy it.

CSR: Where are you exactly at in the rehab process?

BG: I'm two months out from surgery so I got my full range of motion back now. And once the 12-week mark hits, so one more month, that's when they say you really start to ramp it up and start more strengthening and start to get your normal functionality back. That's what I'm looking forward to now.

CSR: In terms of workouts, are you doing any upper-body work now, or is it still mostly lower body?

BG: I can do some rows. I can work my back muscles and my shoulder muscles and even my arms but I can't do any direct strengthening on the chest.

CSR: With the NFL Scouting Combine, is that something you're going to be able to participate in?

BG: I'll be able to go. I won't be able to work out. Because I won't be cleared to be running at that point or lifting, so I'll go and do physicals and interviews but that's it and then I'll get ready for Pro Day.

CSR: Have you gotten an invitation to that?

BG: I haven't gotten an invitation yet but I'm pretty sure I'll get one.

CSR: What have the last few months been like for you, watching the success of your team, the loss against USC, the collective time period for you?

BG: It's been a lot different but it's been really fulfilling in a different way. I guess I've been able to kind of step back and look at our program as a whole and I'm really proud of what I've been seeing out there on the field. When you're in the game you're so immersed in what's going on, in your own assignments, all that sort of thing. When you can kind of step back and watch from the sideline you just kind of look at the whole picture. What we've built here is really impressive. I'm really proud of the way we play football and the way we've done it over the last few years.

CSR: Kind of looking at a possible silver lining with your injury, do you feel like you've learned anything being away from the game? You're still at practice and all, that you hadn't realized before?

BG: I think you learn to appreciate what college football is really all about. Obviously the games are important, making plays is fun. Performing is all great. But college football is really about the locker room. It's about being with your buddies and enjoying the entire experience. That's something that I've still been able to do even though I haven't been able to go out there and play.

CSR: When you look back on your career here, is there a defining moment for you? That one thing 50 years from now you'll hold on to?

BG: For me it's the Rose Bowl last year. Just something about the Rose Bowl is something that will stick with you for your entire life. Just the fact that we were able to do it and beat all the odds last year with two early-season losses, that's something that I'll never forget and hopefully we can do it again this year so we can say two Rose Bowls.

CSR: In these bowl practices and even towards the end of the season have any of the young defensive linemen in your view taken a step forward?

BG: I think they have. I think (Jordan) Watkins has come along well. He's always been very technically sound. The only thing for him is he's needed to get stronger and more explosive. So I think another offseason for him and he should be ready to go. Aziz (Shittu) and Luke (Kaumatule), Aziz has needed over the year to really work on his consistency. He's got the tools to make the plays but he needs to be more consistent. He's coming along. Luke, he's new to the position but he's really coachable. He's been taking Coach Hart's coaching as well as my coaching. I've kind of tried to be in his ear. I think with an offseason, we have spring ball, there's no reason why he can't be a really effective player next year.

CSR: Finally, are you going to be staying local to work out and work through the rehab until Pro Day?

BG: Yeah, I'll be around. I'll be at in and out at Stanford and in the East Bay doing a little training over there. I'm looking forward to the process and we'll see how it goes.

CSR: And you graduated in December?

BG: Yeah. I just graduated.


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