Tyler Gaffney returning to Stanford

Updated: February 11, 2013, 5:46 PM ET
By Kevin Gemmell | ESPN.com

Stanford's offense got a big boost for 2013 with the announcement that former running back Tyler Gaffney would return to the team after taking a year off to play minor league baseball with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Gaffney will rejoin the team on April 1. After his junior season, Gaffney was selected in the 24th round by Pittsburgh. In one season with the Class A State College Spikes, he hit .297 with 6 doubles, 5 triples, 10 RBIs and a .483 on-base percentage.

"As I have grown and matured over the past year, I have come to realize how much I missed my football family at Stanford and how much I missed the game of football," Gaffney said in a statement.

"I am thankful to the Pittsburgh Pirates organization for allowing me the opportunity to play professional baseball. They are a great organization, who permitted me to grow and mature in character. With the benefit of this experience, I will continue to learn about myself and follow the path where my truth will lead me."

In his junior year, Gaffney rushed for 449 yards (6.1 average) and seven touchdowns and also had one receiving touchdown. The Cardinal are looking to replace running back Stepfan Taylor, a three-time 1,000-yard rusher who leaves as one of Stanford's most accomplished players. Gaffney's return certainly puts him at the top of the list of potential candidates.

"I'm very proud of Tyler Gaffney making the decision to come back and finish his degree while also rejoining the football team," Stanford head coach David Shaw said. "Tyler's first three years at Stanford, he contributed to a lot of big games and a lot of big wins. He will join a talented and diverse group of running backs, which as a unit we believe is as good as any in the nation."

When Gaffney signed with Pittsburgh, it ended his college baseball eligibility. However, he has one season of football eligibility left.

Last season Stanford finished 12-2 (8-1) and won the Pac-12 championship game. The Cardinal capped the season with a 20-14 win over Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.