In the third 2013-14 edition of “Senior Sit Down,” The Daily’s Sam Fisher chatted with men’s swimming senior Bryan Offutt.
Sam Fisher (SF): Does it feel real yet that you’re a senior?
Bryan Offutt (BO): It’s bizarre. We were just talking about this last week. It feels like we were freshmen yesterday. And then you look back at all the guys you swam with over that time and you think, when you’re a freshman, those guys seem so old, but now you’re that old and you don’t feel any different than when you were a freshman.
SF: How young do the freshmen look?
BO: They definitely look much younger. It’s funny, you get older and you get used to things. Stanford is very much you’ve been here four years, you’ve done the whole thing, everything is very comfortable. But when you’re a freshman, every single thing is just the most exciting thing ever…like Full Moon on the Quad, they just geeked out; it was like the greatest thing ever. So it’s kind of cool to see that excitement.
It’s good for the team too. These new guys come in and they’re super, super pumped, so it gets you kind of excited too. Then watching them, they’re fast. I don’t know if you’ve seen the results, but at our dual meets they’ve been killing the older guys. So we’ve got to step it up, I guess.
SF: How has the team dynamic evolved over your four years? You’ve had two different coaches, which is pretty rare for a Stanford men’s swimmer.
BO: The guys that come through here all have a pretty similar personality: pretty driven guys, pretty hard-working guys. It’s got to be great to coach this team, honestly, because for the most part people are going to come in and do what they’re supposed to [do]. There’s no one coming out there and goofing around too much.
Scott [Armstrong], the new assistant coach, was actually my coach in high school. So it’s weird because it was two years of doing something completely different from what I did in high school, and now it’s kind of gone back to this weird blend between [high school and college].
So it’s the same and different, I guess. We have the same goals. We’re still trying to win [the NCAA title].
SF: A lot of people know you not for your swimming, but for your outfit at football games. They’ve seen you on Sports Illustrated’s website. Talk about your football game day tradition.
BO: So there was this guy Michael Zoldos ‘12 who was a junior when I was a freshman. And his senior year, he had this orange prison jumpsuit that had been handed down from some older guy…who graduated in the early 2000s. And we were out at a tailgate over at Suites where we live, and he was just wearing it for no reason. And I was like, “Dude, that’s kind of funny. I should go put on my orange tuxedo so we’re both wearing orange.’ We went right from there to the game in our bright orange stuff and we were like, ‘Dude, we’ll totally get on TV. It’s the Red Zone, so everyone’s wearing red and sometimes white, but then there’s going to be us in bright orange.’ So I got so many comments on it that I started wearing it all the time.
I bought it for my junior year prom in high school, and that did not go over well. What happened was I started dating this girl in November, and right when we started dating I was like, “If we go to prom, can I get an orange tuxedo?” Because that was too early in the relationship for her to say no. So she was like, “Yeah, sure,” not thinking that I would actually do it. But then I did it and she was not pleased at all.
SF: Does the orange have anything to do with your Baltimore Oriole roots?
BO: No it doesn’t. It’s totally random.
SF: So as a senior, you’re also getting close to finishing the academic side of things. Can you give us an update on what you’ve been doing academically?
BO: I’m a computer science major. It’s getting pretty brutal. Usually I try to not take three CS classes at a time. This quarter I am. I’m taking CS 221, CS 229 and CS 145.
SF: How did you get into computer science? Was it a single class that did it?
BO: It was CS 106A. It’s where they get you. I think a lot of people have that. I actually section lead too. CS 106A is so wonderfully designed because you go in and they trick you. You just make games and stuff. And you’re like, “Dude, that’s so cool. I made Hangman! This is awesome!” And then as you go along you take 107, and you’re like, “This is nerd cool, but I’m not going to show my friends my heap allocator.”
But yeah, 106A was the big one and then I kind of went along with 106B. I think that’s one of the craziest and most difficult parts of going to Stanford. You come in and you don’t have to pick your major, which is awesome, but you have to figure out what you want to do, presumably for the rest of your life. So needless to say, I went along with it. I knew I wanted to do engineering and that was my favorite intro class.
SF: Talk about being a section leader. I’m guessing there aren’t that many people who have time to be a Stanford student, a Stanford athlete and section lead as well.
BO: I did it last spring. It was something that I really wanted to do. The spring is our “offseason.”…I knew I was going to have a little extra time so I decided to do it. And it was awesome. It definitely was time consuming. I got fortunate though…I had a section of like 10 people, but before the first section I had four people drop. So I had the world’s tiniest section, which made it a little more manageable to go to practice, grade the stuff, get everything done.
I think I was probably one of the stranger section leaders. I’d be up there in like a tie-dye shirt with no shoes on.
SF: What are you better at teaching: swimming or computer science?
BO: Probably computer science, honestly. I’m a distance swimmer. The sprinters are more of the guys who think about everything because they’re doing a 50. The dive has to be perfect, the wall has to be perfect, the turn has to be perfect, the finish has to be perfect. It’s quite nerve-racking. That and the margin of error — at NCAAs if you go a tenth of a second slower in the 50, you’re not in the final. Whereas distance swimming, you kind of train hard and when it hurts you just go, “Oh well,” and keep plugging along. I’m not technically the best swimmer, so I’m definitely better at teaching computer science.
SF: I would assume distance is also a lot about efficiency though. Or is it just pain?
BO: It’s just pain tolerance. At this level, you have to be somewhat good technically, but pain tolerance is definitely the most important quality in stuff like the mile. That’s my least favorite event, but also one of my three events. The 500[-meter swim] is much more technical, especially nowadays. The 500 now is just a sprint. There are guys that are going stupid fast.…The distance events have gotten much more competitive as time goes on. Even in the 400 [individual medley]. My freshman year if you went 3:47-mid, you’d make NCAAs. Last year it was 3:46.3 I think…If you watch me do my 400 IMs I get destroyed on the walls but catch up in the swimming, because I’m a swimmer, not a wall-person. That’s why I like long-course, too.
SF: I know we’re still early in the year, but have you given any thought at all to what role swimming will play in your life after this season ends?
BO: I’m definitely going to take time off. We joke around. Despite how much I swim, I’m not the six-pack kind of ripped-up guy like a lot of my teammates. So the big joke is, “Bryan’s not going to exercise for six months and is just going to get huge.” They say that one of two things is going to happen: I’m not going to exercise at all and just sit around and eat a bunch of candy and gain a lot of weight or, slightly less likely, I’m going to have some sort of divine inspiration…and just get massive [from lifting weights].
The other thing we’re thinking about doing is I do have qualifying times for the 2016 Olympic Trials. So a lot of guys in my class joke that we’re not going to swim, and then we’re going to swim for two months before trials and then see who gets the lowest place. That’s also not out of the realm of possibility. And people do that a lot, especially girls. You have girls who got the cut four years ago. You might as well swim.
SF: What about the computer science side? Are you looking for jobs?
BO: I’m looking for jobs. I interned at Palantir over the summer. I have a standing offer from them. I’m thinking about that, but I’m also interviewing around. I’m mostly trying to figure out if I want to do something technical or slightly less technical. It’s that classic thing where I like to code a lot, but I also like to work with people. And so it’s trying to find either something that’s kind of in between or pick one or the other.
SF: So a distance swimmer that likes to work with people? That doesn’t seem to gel. The distance swimming and the computer science, now that seems to go together.
BO: (Laughs.) I like people.
SF: Maybe that goes with the orange tuxedo side of you.
BO: That’s a crowd favorite, always. In all honesty, that’s probably the best purchase I’ve made in my entire life. It was like 100 bucks. The thing is like ripped all the way up the calf; it’s dirty. I probably shouldn’t reveal this, but I don’t think I’ve actually washed it.
It’s up there with these Ravens camouflage pants that I wear. Something feels wrong about washing something like that. I got those when I flew home for Ray Lewis’s last game, and I got them for that. And they won that game. And I wore that for all of the playoff games, and they won those. And then I wore them for the Super Bowl, and they won that.…I was like, “These are good luck; I can’t wash them.” And then I wore them when we played the Broncos in the beginning of the season, and the Ravens just got trashed. So I guess I can wash them now, but it just feels wrong. There are so many memories.
SF: Who is going to replace your bubbly personality on the team?
BO: Freshman Jimmy Yoder. Actually, the orange tuxedo is getting passed down. And I don’t want to reveal who it’s definitely going to go to, but right now Yoder is the front runner. Kind of a goofball, very excitable, kind of wide-eyed type of freshman — I think he has a good shot of being the next me. [He’s] kind of the goofball of the group.
Contact Sam Fisher at safisher ‘at’ stanford.edu.