Even though it was over three years ago, I still remember my first game at Stanford Stadium as if it were just yesterday.
I remember pulling my brand-new Red Zone shirt over my head like every freshman does for the first time, and then rolling out with my freshman dorm (Trancos represent!) to the game in an overly hyper crowd doing our cutesy dorm chant: “T-R-A-N-C-O-S! Trancos is the f***ing best!” (I cringe when I look back at it now).
I remember every harrowing minute of that 54-48 overtime win over Arizona, from Josh Nunes’ three rushing touchdowns (seriously) to Chase Thomas’ overtime interception to Stepfan Taylor breaking free to close the door on a game the likes of which I’ve still never seen since on that field.
Most of all, I remember falling in love with the team clad in the simple yet elegant cardinal and white uniforms down on the field even though I knew nothing about the players or the sport — I was one of maybe 20 people in my freshman dorm that went to every home game that year, and one of maybe six or seven that would stay to the finish.
Given that I remember my first time watching these players in Stanford Stadium so vividly, it’s weird to think — and it still hasn’t completely hit me — that Saturday will mark the last time I’ll ever see this group of seniors take the field at home.
I know that I’ve already been through three Senior Days, and I’ve had to say goodbye to era-defining players like Shayne Skov, Trent Murphy and David Yankey. But this year’s senior class is my senior class — through all of the victories, defeats, position battles, championships and tumult over the last four years, this group of seniors has been the lone constant of my Stanford football experience.
Over the span of four seasons that would cause me so much elation and misery, excitement and tedium, smugness and humility, players that used to be nothing more than nameless faces to me have taken on personalities, identities and storylines that are as ingrained into my Stanford experience as my weekly problem sets or the tasteless chicken in the dining halls.
From Kevin Hogan’s journey from read-option package quarterback to the winningest quarterback in Stanford history to Joshua Garnett’s journey from dominator of beef to dominator of defenses, these transformations have accompanied my own change from naïve freshman to (slightly) more mature senior, and realizing that their journey is about to come to an end is also a sobering reminder that my time on this campus is soon coming to a close as well.
It didn’t really start to hit me until Saturday, when I saw those seniors storm the Stanford Axe and take the victory lap around the field. Seeing the unbridled excitement and emotion on the faces that I’ve followed for four years as they clutched their trophy and brandished it for the world to see took me back to that day three years ago when I saw those faces emerge from the Stanford Stadium tunnel for the first time.
I’ve had to bury my Stanford fandom for the last two years under the guise of working for a newspaper and covering the team, but watching my seniors come full circle brought back those emotions and that fervor in a dizzying rush as I stood momentarily speechless in the KZSU Radio booth.
For those of you that were listening to that broadcast, you might remember me suddenly going on and on about how truly special these last few years have been for Stanford fans and what an incredible ride it has been for that group of seniors — the 13th class in Stanford history that never lost the Axe.
I hope that you now understand why I couldn’t stop those words from flowing in that moment, and I now hope that you bear with me if I get a little sentimental in our broadcast for this Saturday’s game against Notre Dame.
This Saturday will mark the final chapter in my class’s journey at Stanford Stadium, and when I’m watching those warriors do battle one last time in what has almost become a second home to me, I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop myself from once again becoming that freshman clutching a rally towel, jingling my keys and jumping at the wrong time during All Right Now.
All journeys must come to an end — even those that feel like they’ve only just begun. I can only hope that my experience with these seniors will see as tumultuous of an ending as its beginning.
Do-Hyoung Park’s editor is asleep and is thus not at liberty to write him a witty contact line. In the meantime, contact him at dhpark ‘at’ stanford.edu.