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Stanford's total package


Somebody needs to start a campaign for Owen Marecic. Heisman, Walter Camp Award -- I don't care. Maybe somebody can design the Marecic Trophy. It will feature a cast-bronze football player trying to tackle himself.

Marecic is the starting fullback for a Stanford team that could win the Pac-10. He is also a starting inside linebacker for Stanford.

Occasionally players will line up on both sides of the ball, but it is extremely rare for players to start on both sides. It is rarer still for a player to do it as well as Marecic, on a team with BCS bowl hopes, at positions as physically grueling as fullback and linebacker.

How good is he?

"Owen is an All-American fullback," Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh said. "It is hard to imagine there is a better fullback than Owen."

Being an "All-American fullback" sounds nice, but there is no such thing. You don't see fullbacks on All-America teams anymore, for the same reason nobody conducts an online poll to find the world's best dinner roll. Fans do not turn on their televisions to watch fullbacks. They are appreciated by coaches and nobody else.

It is hard to find a college coach who appreciates a player more than Harbaugh appreciates Marecic, and I'm including the guys who coach their sons. Harbaugh calls Marecic "just a beautiful soul" and "a true warrior." Harbaugh's wife, Sarah, told him he looks at Marecic "like somebody else would look at a beautiful woman."

"He's a stud," Harbaugh said.

How did this happen? Well, Harbaugh arrived in Palo Alto three years ago and discovered his roster was so thin that it should have been printed on tissue. He quickly asked a half dozen or so players to play both offense and defense. It was either old-school or junior high school, depending on how you look at it, but Harbaugh was just being resourceful.

"The intent was never to start them both ways," Harbaugh said. "The intent was to create some depth where there wasn't anyway."

Marecic's intent is always to run through the guy in front of him and come out the other side. Some guys break tackles; Marecic breaks helmets. When he broke one for the third time, Harbaugh had him sign it. It now sits in the coach's office.

Can Marecic really bang heads on offense and defense the whole game? We're about to find out. Stanford runs between 70 and 80 offensive plays in a typical game. Harbaugh says "we're thinking of a pitch count for him of around 90 snaps a game."

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If you can find another player who has pulled this off in recent years, then I absolutely GUARANTEE that guy never said "what's great about the human biology program here is that it's a very interdisciplinary major," as Marecic told me recently.

Thanks to that ... um, interdisciplinariness, Marecic can fulfill every football player's dream and major in, "I guess ... human biology concentrated in infectious disease, national security and international health." I told Stanford All-America quarterback Andrew Luck about Marecic's major, and Luck laughed and said: "I don't think I understand that."

Harbaugh said Marecic got straight A's in one recent quarter, but Marecic corrected him: "It wasn't 4.0. It was whatever A's and A-minuses turn out to be ... It's not really straight A's. I got some minuses in there."

As you can see, Marecic doesn't talk much about himself. He doesn't talk much, period.

"I remember freshman year, I swear I didn't hear him say a word until he was brought up to say wise words after practice, about halfway through training camp," Luck said.

Wise words, Luck said, is when players share "a lesson they've learned about football. It's really an open platform to say anything you want. I remember he went up for the first wise words, and he spoke so eloquently. He says some really funny things. He's a hilarious guy, actually."

Hilarious? Don't ruin his rep! He has the least amusing football style in the country. Last year, Marecic was the dynamite that opened holes for Toby Gerhart, who became a Heisman finalist.

"Toby was great, obviously," Luck said. "A once-in-a-lifetime back. But Owen did a lot of the tough work that nobody appreciates. Some of the plays we ran, if we didn't have a fullback the caliber of Owen, I don't think we could have run."

Now he'll be lead blocker on those plays and the tackler when the other team runs them. Marecic said his dual role "definitely it will be tougher mentally than physically."

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that a guy majoring in human biology concentrated in infectious disease, national security and international health can handle the mental part of this -- even if, by his own admission, national security is "kind of an unexplored interest at this point."

Mention Chuck Bednarik or Gordie Lockbaum or some of the other famous two-way players in history, and Marecic says "I haven't really done anything yet. So all those kinds of comparisons don't really have much of a basis in my mind."

They will soon.

College football fans, embrace Owen Marecic. This is your man. He could walk straight out of the 1950s and into the 2011 Rose Bowl. He could be your NFL team's starting fullback in three years or your family's doctor in 10. He could even improve national security, if he ever explores that interest. In the meantime, I know where he belongs on your All-America team: everywhere.