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Saturday Tailgate: Stanford Cardinal

9/20/2013

Stanford coach David Shaw isn't big on routines. He's not big on superstitions. When it comes to game day for the Cardinal’s coach, the less distractions the better.

"I try to get guys to focus on the game and not the things surrounding the game," he said. "We hardly make a big deal about anything else going on."

That doesn't mean the team isn't exposed to what is one of the more unique game day settings in the Pac-12. Two hours before kickoff, the team makes its way from the Arrillaga Family Sports Center to Stanford Stadium in a procession simply known as "The Walk."

It's a simple, time-honored tradition on campus. For some, it's a time for focus. For others, it's a time to get amped up.

Friends, family, fans and alumni line the route and the sound of "All Right Now" blares from the marching band, which walks close behind. In all, it takes less than ten minutes to complete.

"You see some of the most important people in your life before you go on the field," defensive end Josh Mauro said. "It kind of helps you soak in why you're here, how you're here."

The tradition dates back at least a half-century, but its origin is unknown. When No. 5 Stanford hosts No. 23 Arizona State on Saturday, Shaw will make "The Walk" for the 72nd time -- 30 of which came as a player.

A much newer tradition -- the honorary captain program -- has quickly become something the players cherish even more. Started in 2009 by former coach Jim Harbaugh and assistant athletic director for football administration Mike Eubanks, the program brings in distinguished individuals to spend time with and speak to the team before each home game. Their responsibilities go right up to the coin toss, when they make their way to midfield with the Stanford captains.

Harbaugh got the idea from his brother-in-law, Indiana men's basketball coach Tom Crean, who operates a similar program.

The list of honorary captains is essentially a Who's Who including giants in business, academia and athletics.

Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang, Newark, N.J., mayor Cory Booker and Stanford President John Hennessy have all served. As have former Stanford athletes Tiger Woods, John Elway and Richard Sherman. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has done it twice. The list goes on.

"The idea is to have a captain embedded with the team and have their positive effect felt," said Eubanks, who runs the program. "They are all great in their arenas because of different characteristics they have. These are people who are motivational and insightful and to have them address the team can help led (then players) right through the game."

Swimming great Summer Sanders, a four-time Olympic medalist, will serve in the role leading up to the game with the Sun Devils.