From Doak Walker to venture capital: Bryce Love ’19 embarks on a new chapter

Published May 14, 2024, 7:14 p.m., last updated May 15, 2024, 4:16 a.m.

Coming into the 2017 football season, expectations for the Stanford football team were high. The Cardinal were ranked No. 14 to start the year and brought back most of the defense that ranked top 20 in the nation. But questions still remained on offense. Perhaps the most important was who would replace the production of running back Christian McCaffrey, a top-ten pick in the 2017 NFL Draft and one of the best college football players of all-time.

In their first game of the season, Stanford played the Rice Owls in Sydney, Australia. But instead of No. 5 in the backfield, Stanford fans witnessed the emergence of No. 20: Bryce Love.

In his first play from scrimmage, Love carried the ball and quickly found a hole to exploit. After going untouched for eight yards, the 5-foot-9 running back used a quick stutter-step and broke two tackles before getting to the outside. No. 20 utilized his track speed to blaze down the sideline, only to be slowed down by an arm tackle before finally being brought down by a safety. 

The run was a preview to come for Love, who had one of the most decorated seasons ever by a Stanford player. During his junior season, Love rushed for 2,118 rushing yards, 19 rushing touchdowns and had 13 consecutive games with a 30-yard rush (an FBS record). For his efforts, Love won the prestigious Doak Walker Award, given annually to the best running back in the nation. That same season, he was named a unanimous All-American and a Heisman Trophy finalist.

But after an injury-riddled senior season, Love’s football career slowed down and he spent just two seasons in the NFL with the Washington Commanders. 

“After I took some time off, I started thinking about different avenues, and was trying out different cohorts to see what I was passionate about,” Love said. “I wanted to figure out ways that I could make a difference, so I started taking different classes, investing in startups and learning about different technologies.”

Today, Love is still based in the Washington, D.C. area and works as an angel investor. He is passionate about identifying new opportunities for growth and innovation in tech.

“I often refer back to conversations I had [on campus], college is about touching into different passions,” Love said. “I went out there from North Carolina, which was a big adjustment, and learning to navigate that, being pushed academically, so many of those lessons ended up bleeding into other parts of my life.”

The 2017 Doak Walker Award winner didn’t stumble upon venture capital (VC) by himself.  

Jeff Jordan M.B.A. ’87, a current partner at Andreesen Horowitz, has helped professional athletes like Andre Iguodala and Lebron James get into the VC space during their careers. Jordan and Love first crossed paths during Love’s college years, where Jordan introduced the star running back to the profession.  

“Bryce is the embodiment of the Stanford ideal of the student-athlete. He has unlimited potential in life, and we’re proud to have the opportunity to help him along in any way we can on his journey,” Jordan said, who is also the former CEO of OpenTable. 

The two met through Harrison Phillips ’17, who currently plays nose tackle for the Minnesota Vikings and was Love’s teammate for two years. Jordan had hosted Phillips for a summer dinner, and thereafter began periodically hosting dinner parties for a handful of student athletes.

Jordan and his wife Karen were immediately impressed with Love.

“He had a magnetic personality and could light up the room,” Jordan said.  “He was thoughtful and intelligent, and he was off-the-charts skilled on the football field, but that was combined with a deep humility that we found very compelling.”

Having studied human biology at Stanford, Love shared that his dream had always been to work in pediatrics. However, he remembers attending a talk as a student athlete, where students were asked, “Are you passionate about a specific thing, or are you a passionate person?” Love considers himself to be the latter.

“As long as I’m learning and growing and taking it day by day, I’m happy,” he said. His long term goals include one day running his own VC fund, or attending medical school and becoming a pediatrician.

While Love’s historic season occurred just seven years ago, the college football attention cycle moves swiftly and historical memories quickly fade.

But current students on campus still remember Love as a key part of the Stanford football teams that won the 2016 Rose Bowl and two Sun Bowls in 2017 and 2018. “I remember as a kid how much he flashed on the field,” said Mason Osborn ’26. “He was definitely a special talent.”

Love said that over the years he has remained close with many of his former coaches and teammates, including former head coach David Shaw and running backs coach Ron Gould. Even as many of his teammates have moved around the country and are now getting married, Love notes that when they do find opportunities to see each other in person, “it’s like no time has passed.”

When asked of any advice he had for current Stanford students, Love emphasized meeting new people as a crucial part of the college experience. 

“One of my older teammates used to say, ‘the days go by slow, but years go by fast’,” Love said. So, meet as many people as you can, lean into it, take advantage of it, and keep pushing yourself everyday. It’s all gonna work out.”

Erin Ye '26 is the Managing Editor for The Grind. She also writes in Sports and Arts & Life. Erin enjoys black coffee, exploring the Stanford experience, and live music.

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