Stanford's Owen Marecic a 'Perfect Storm'
The "perfect storm" walks into the room, smiles politely and talks quietly about how long his hair has gotten.
He's going to have it cut and donate it to a charity that makes wigs for cancer patients, he explains. He did it as a tribute to a couple of family members who have battled cancer and it's just about time to cut it. He's got to find a place to get it done.
But not until after the Stanford Cardinal play in the Orange Bowl.
Stanford's Owen Marecic is humble, he's shy and he doesn't give off the vibe of a guy who has just spent the last five months providing the country an epic display of toughness and grit.
The senior started 12 games at fullback. He started 12 games at linebacker. He is the only player in Football Bowl Subdivision to start on both sides of the ball this season. He's averaged 110 snaps a game at two of the most physically and mentally demanding positions on the field.
Coach Jim Harbaugh calls him a "perfect storm of a guy."
"I've never seen a guy like him before," Harbaugh said. "I'm going back 35 years playing with guys, coaching guys, hundreds, thousands of guys and never seen a guy like him."
Marecic will be a legend when he leaves Stanford. His cracked helmet -- one of them, anyway -- sits in Harbaugh's office. His teammates will tell their kids about the day in September when he scored a touchdown on offense against Notre Dame and then on the very next play from scrimmage, he intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown.
And for a bonus, he had the team's best grade-point average last spring. He's pre-med.
Harbaugh said it would take an extraordinary young man to do what he asked of Marecic this season. Lucky for him, there was one handy. Big, tough, smart, skilled and always willing.
"I always trusted that they would make the (right) decision," Marecic said. "I wouldn't play both ways for the sake of playing both ways ... I just want to help the team the best I can."
The hardest part, Marecic said, was building a "mental foundation."
"Knowing my responsibilities on the field, knowing schemes and plays, things like that," Marecic said.
But physically, let's not kid ourselves. Marecic said he is able to sit during a game for only a minute or two at a time.
"I grab some water and try to breathe," Marecic said. "If we score or get scored on, that's the time I get to rest a little."
Harbaugh's experiment began in spring practice 2009 when the coach asked Marecic to play on both sides of the ball. He moved into the starting role by November when starting linebacker Clinton Snyder was lost to a season-ending injury and Marecic filled the spot. He played both ways for the final four games of the 2009 season and now all of 2010.
At fullback, the 6-foot-1, 244-pound Marecic has literally paved the way for the Cardinal's stellar running game the past two seasons. Last year, he was the lead blocker for Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart. This season, Stanford rushed for 211 yards a game, second in the Pac-10 to Oregon.
He carried the ball 29 times this season for 117 yards and four touchdowns.
He finished the regular-season sixth on the team with 42 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, a sack and two interceptions.
Marecic practiced every day this season on both sides of the ball, moving from one field to another. He has gone to hours of film every day, carried the offensive playbook under one arm, the defensive playbook under the other and studied both late into the night.
He managed to stay healthy all season and kept his weight up.
"The amazing thing was that he got even stronger than he had in the past," Harbaugh said. "The fact is that he prepared himself so thoroughly because it was a big unknown to him, too, in the offseason. He trained himself even harder. You don't think there's another rung on the ladder he can do and then you see him do it."
Quarterback Andrew Luck admitted he wondered whether Marecic would be able to hold up.
"I don't think doubt is the right word, because Owen is definitely the type of guy that would prove you wrong," Luck said.
"He's tough, just a tough guy. He does have a certain place in the locker room lore for us, an exalted place. You'd think that he would be some freak football player, but he's just a good guy."
Marecic finished 10th in the Heisman Trophy vote, giving Stanford two players (along with runner-up Luck) in the top 10. He is an All-American and a finalist for the Paul Hornung Award for the nation's most versatile player.
It is even a competition?
On Monday, in the Orange Bowl against Virginia Tech, Marecic will play in the Stanford uniform for the last time, and do something that could very well never be done again.
"This wasn't a publicity stunt or something just to gain recognition or a ploy," Harbaugh said. "It was real. And people that really understand football, understand what was taking place and that this will never take place again, in my opinion."
Unless the another "perfect storm" walks into Harbaugh's office.
"Never say never," Harbaugh said.