There has been a long-standing belief that a school with academic priorities like Stanford can't compete against the powerhouses of college football. With an academic reputation that ranks among the best in the nation, Stanford must look for recruits that not only star on the football field, but in the classroom as well.
However, in securing a commitment from Gainesville (GA) Gainesville WR Tai-ler Jones, Stanford proved that its combination of academic and athletic excellence could compete against some of the top college football programs in the country.
Last night, CardinalReport had the opportunity to check in with Tai-ler and his father Andre. The offer from Stanford was intriguing and exciting for both father and son.
"I received the offer from Stanford early in the recruiting process, so sometime later in the football season," Tai-ler revealed.
"I knew that it was a great academic school, and that they played in the Pac-10. I also remembered that they had beat USC, and I had heard about Coach Harbaugh."
For Andre, the possibilities that a Stanford degree could immediately offer his son Tai-ler captured his attention.
"The first thing that came to mind was the Stanford degree and the weight that it carries in the business world," Andre told CardinalReport. "I thought it was a strong opportunity for Tai-ler to give himself an edge."
After their visit to Palo Alto, Stanford became the obvious chance in the eyes of Andre.
"I think I would have been concerned if he (Tai-ler) had chosen Stanford before visiting the campus," the elder Jones said. "But once he had the opportunity to see it with his own eyes, and meet with the coaches and professors, to me it became the obvious choice."
One of the unique advantages that Stanford has in recruiting Tai-ler was his relationship with 2009 commit Jamal Patterson.
"He told me that as people who are fortunate to have the grades, and who are more than just football players, we deserve to have the best in both academics and athletics," Tai-ler said.
When Tai-ler committed to Stanford, it shocked many people because he chose the Cardinal over some of the premier football programs in the country. However, the challenge of rebuilding was something that really intrigued Tai-ler.
"It wasn't difficult to choose Stanford," Tai-ler said. "In my opinion, I would rather go to a school that is rebuilding and on the rise so that people overlook us. I'd rather be an underdog, then be part of a team that is already established."
However, both Tai-ler and Andre wanted to make it quite clear that they think that Stanford is close to competing for some truly special things.
"I believe we can win a championship," Tai-ler declared. "With the class of 2010, and the great class of 2009, we are building unity, and when we all get there, we will be one, and not a bunch of individuals."
Andre sees a parallel between his career at Notre Dame, and the championship ambitions that Coach Harbaugh possesses.
"I do believe that Stanford can compete for a championship, and I will tell you my only experience is this," Andre said. "When I entered Notre Dame in 1987, I believe that Notre Dame was 5-6 the year before. That year, Lou Holtz went out and recruited 25 of the most talented guys that he could get his hands on. Within 24 months, we won the National Championship.
"In my opinion, there are 4 teams in the Pac 10 that Stanford needs to compete with and beat. I believe with the talent that Stanford has got over the past 24 months, that they are capable of it."
One of the most interesting offers that Tai-ler received was from Notre Dame, his father's alma mater. While it was difficult for Andre to stay neutral, all he wanted was the best for Tai-ler.
"I think staying neutral is impossible," Andre stated. "Even without verbalizing my desires, the fact that he has grown up with a Notre Dame blanket, and all my friends, his godfather, and his aunt went to Notre Dame. It's a subliminal message that doesn't need to be verbalized."
But the father knew the decision must be made by Tai-ler.
"I tried to be neutral as much as I could be, because I wanted this to be his choice," Andre told CardinalReport. "The last thing I wanted was for him to choose Notre Dame just to be a legacy kid, and because I liked it. I don't think any parent would want that, and the main thing I want is for him to be happy."
One of the most important developments in the recruitment of Tai-ler was the relationship he was able to build with the Stanford coaches. For Andre, it was the commitment to his son that set them apart from some of the other coaching staffs.
"The difference was kind of subtle, in that Jim Harbaugh said that he would personally ensure TJ's success both on and off the field," Andres said. "And the relationship that they built was so strong."
As we discussed the relationship between Tai-ler and the coaching staff more, Andre provided this terrific analogy, which I think truly sums up the recruiting process.
"To me, it's like a salesperson who works at IBM. I'm not buying IBM, I'm buying the salesman," Andre said. "If the people weren't right, then at the end of the day I wouldn't have been comfortable with him choosing Stanford. The people at Stanford are awesome, and I truly believe that they will take care of him, and in four years he will graduate with a degree from a great school."
With his commitment to Stanford, Tai-ler continued the trend of Stanford securing top talent from the state of Georgia. Neither Tai-ler nor Andre feels that this is a coincdence.
"The main thing is that the coaches are real, and they are going to be the same no matter what day of the week it is," Tai-ler said. "They let you know that they will take care of you, and you get one of the best educations in the nation at a beautiful campus."
According to Andre, it takes a different type of recruit to appreciate what Stanford can offer.
"I would tell you from my perspective, it takes a different type of kid and parent to be interested in a Stanford, Notre Dame, or Vanderbilt," Andre said. "Regardless of whether the recruit is from Georgia, Florida, or Texas, Stanford is going to resonate with that kid and parent. I had never seen or experienced a campus in the way that I did during those 48 hours at Stanford."
While Tai-ler had initially planned on graduating early from high school, recent discussions with his family and the Stanford coaches may have changed his plans.
"I was planning on graduating early, but I talked to my counselor, Coach Anderson, and my dad, and I might end up staying the full year," Tai-ler clarified. "If I do graduate early, I will take classes at a community college, so that I can enroll at Stanford with a strong academic standing."
Many Stanford fans were nervous when Tai-ler declared that he still planned on taking some officials visits. However, they can breathe a huge sigh of relief, as Stanford is where Tai-ler plans to be.
"My commitment to Stanford is 100% and that's my word," Tai-ler told CardinalReport. "Stanford is my school and I will sign on signing day. Coach Harbaugh actually encouraged me to check out other campuses, to make sure that Stanford was my choice. When I do take my officials, it will encompass schools that were in my top five."
With an early application hopefully on the way, and terrific academic standing, Tai-ler is excited to begin his career at Stanford.
CardinalReport would like to thank both Andre and Tai-ler for taking the time for this terrific interview, and there is no doubt that the Cardinal will be welcoming a special family for the next four years.