49ers' Stanford football connection hopes to be difference maker in 2019 season

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KGO) -- In the past decade, Stanford has proven themselves to be the top Bay Area college football powerhouse and among the best in the nation with the seventh best winning percentage in the country in that span leading to plenty of rings.

They've also produced 42 NFL Draft picks since 2009 and there's a pipeline forming from Stanford Stadium, right down 101 to Levi's Stadium.

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"I think it's the commute," 49ers Cornerback Richard Sherman said. "It's not a far drive for the players, it's not a far drive for the team, so I think it's just one of those relationships that's symbiotic. They see a school down the street and take as many players as they can. I'm just kidding. It's been a really successful program for the past ten or so years and they've produced a lot of talent. So, you expect there to be a lot of talent on these NFL rosters."



The San Francisco 49ers are one team that have plenty of that Stanford talent in their locker room.

Heading into the season, San Francisco is tied for the league lead with four former Cardinals on their 53-man squad. That includes a few new faces to the team in tight ends Levine Toilolo and Kaden Smith who have found help adapting to their new team thanks to their familiar teammates.

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"Anytime that you are in a familiar environment and there's familiar faces, it helps with that comfort level," Toilolo said. "Whether you know them personally or not, they're always welcoming. So to come here with so many Stanford guys were great for me."

"Whenever you have some advice that you need, you can go to some of the vets, especially one of the Stanford guys and they're really willing to help you because they are in the same position as you were," Smith said. "They really want to see you do well."

It helps when the man in charge of filling the roster is a Stanford man himself in General Manager John Lynch.

But, in order to be picked, the process must start before.

The work to build the future Stanford stars in the league begins on the Farm with current Cardinal Head Coach David Shaw.

He says two key principles go into making a future NFL player.



"The second most important thing is looking what we do schematically with offense, defense and special teams. We're more like an NFL constructed team than a college team. That's number two. Number one is that we've been able to recruit really well. That's the most important thing. If the guys don't have the ability, it doesn't matter what scheme you run, they won't be able to make it."

From the campus in Palo Alto, to the bright lights of the NFL, Stanford players show they can produce consistently successful seasons and be playmakers for their teams.

But to be a true Stanford star it comes down to three things: producing on the field, being a professional off the field, and of course, winning.

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"Just be a complete Stanford man," 49ers Defensive Lineman Solomon Thomas said. "You're diligent about your work, you study hard and you're professional about everything you do. Whether it's treatment, doing extra work or playing hard, we're all that gritty blue-collar worker that loves to work so that's what we do."

"Being smart, being a hard worker, obviously having football talent and winning," Sherman said. "It's a winning culture over there that Coach Shaw has instilled. Those players know how to win."

The four former Stanford players and the 49ers will take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to open the 2019 football season Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019.

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