Stanford's football history is spangled with excellent quarterbacks: Frankie Albert, Bob Garrett, Bobby Grayson, John Brodie. Even with all those brains and arms, however, Stanford has made it to the Rose Bowl only twice in the last 30 years and has lost to USC 12 times in a row (last season by a 34-yard field goal with 0:00 on the clock). This fall the Indians think they could have their best quarterback yet, a man capable of getting them to Pasadena on some other pretext than an alumni tea. School propaganda sheets refer to him as H.T.C. Plunkett and would have us believe his given names are Heisman Trophy Candidate.
Around The Farm, though, Plunkett goes by Jim. A senior, he already has broken most of the Stanford and Pacific Eight passing records, and last year he won the Voit Memorial Trophy as the best player on the West Coast.
Plunkett is a Mexican-American from San Jose, only 18 miles south of Stanford. His mother is totally blind and his father, who died last year, was legally blind, but he says there was never any need to feel sorry for them.
"My folks were poor and uneducated," he says, "but they accepted life for what it gave them. My mother cooked until recently. She could handle a lot of things. With extremely limited vision my father could go out to places, like the store or the park, and he needed only the barest help. Right now my sisters and I are helping to support our mother."
Plunkett was redshirted one year, so he could have left school with his original class and turned pro this season. Certainly his family could use the money. No doubt another crack at beating USC and a good chance to win the Heisman Trophy helped persuade him to stay. Coach John Ralston, who says he actually likes recruiting, is noted for his persuasive ways.
Stanford's receivers are good, especially All-Coast Tight End Bob Moore from Klamath Falls, Ore. He was the New York Mets' No. 1 pick in the 1966 free-agent draft but turned down a bonus baseball contract to play college football. Another example of Ralston's salesmanship.
There is enough talent elsewhere on the team to help the Indians improve on their 1969 record of 7-2-1, which so easily could have been 10-0 (Purdue beat them by passing for a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter; UCLA blocked a field-goal attempt as the gun sounded to keep a 20-20 tie). All-Coast Center John Sande and Defensive Tackle Dave Tipton and Guard Pete Lazetich anchor two strong lines, and Jeff Siemon, once touted as the finest player ever to come out of Bakersfield (making him supposedly better than Frank Gifford), should be a good replacement at linebacker. He was a defensive end last season. The area that needed the most improvement was the defensive backfield, which allowed Purdue's Mike Phipps, USC's Jimmy Jones and UCLA's Dennis Dummit to pass at will in the fourth quarters of Stanford's losing and tying games. Jones and Dummit are back this year with arms cocked and eyes on the scoreboard. "We must defense the fine thrower better than we did a year ago," says Ralston.
Luckily for Ralston, perhaps the finest thrower is on his side. Plunkett needs only 379 yards of total offense, 17 pass completions and four touchdown passes to break career Pacific Eight records. He is so good, long pass or short, that his excellent backup man, Don Bunce, decided to redshirt and leave the second-stringing to sophomores Mike Boryla (son of basketball star Vince), Jim Wise or Jesse Freitas. Freitas was so good in spring practice (10 of 11 passes for 119 yards, two touchdowns) that Plunkett's records should be put down in pencil.