Dec. 21, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. -- - Stanford's distinguished list of two-sport standouts reads like a who's who in the University's rich and storied athletic history.
From Ernie Nevers and Bob Mathias to John Elway, Darrin Nelson, James Lofton, John Lynch, Chad Hutchinson and most recently, Toby Gerhart - Stanford football players have not limited their success to the gridiron.
Mike Dotterer remains the only athlete in Stanford history to earn four letters in both football and baseball. As a running back, he was part of a backfield that included John Elway and Darrin Nelson, compiling 1,187 yards and 15 touchdowns during his four-year career.
With Nelson sidelined for the entire 1979 season with an injury, Dotterer saw significant playing time as a freshman, rushing for 366 yards and scoring a freshmen record eight touchdowns. He contributed 41 yards and five receptions to help the Cardinal to a 21-21 tie against top-ranked USC and was involved in a clutch fourth-and-one play in which he recovered his own fumble to pick up a first down, sustaining Stanford's final drive that resulted in a game-tying touchdown with 4:33 left.
A two-time All-American in baseball, Dotterer was a .340 career hitter as a left fielder and helped the Cardinal to a pair of College World Series appearances in 1982 and `83. In 1981, he set single-season records for hits (108), runs scored (72) and at-bats (280) to go along with six home runs, seven triples, 11 doubles and 44 runs scored from his leadoff position in the batting order.
He was drafted three times in baseball, including twice by the New York Yankees in 1979 and '83, and was also an eighth round selection of the Los Angeles Raiders in 1983.
In this installment of "Forever Cardinal," Mike looks back on his two-sport career at Stanford, catches us up on his career path and shares his memories of John Elway, Darrin Nelson and Toby Gerhart.
Catch us up on your career path since you graduated from Stanford?
I've had a number of different careers. Some people laugh because I think I've handed out more different business cards than anyone who has ever graduated from Stanford.
I played professional football with the Raiders following graduation, but I also attended graduate school at Columbia in the off-season. I was on the Mr. Al Davis scholarship program. I was fortunate to have been a part on the Raiders Super Bowl team and made enough money to pay for grad school.
I retired after I hurt my knee and my first "real" job was working for the United Nations in New York City. I took ambassadors from different countries around the nation to meet with leaders of industry, which afforded me the opportunity to meet people such as David Rockefeller, Armand Hammer, Ross Perot and others. It was a fantastic experience.
After that, I moved to London and spent a year studying at the London School of Economics. A friend of mine contacted me in 1990 and asked me if I had ever heard of a guy named Craig McCaw. At the time, I didn't know Craig, but I came out for an interview with McCaw Cellular, which at the time was at the forefront of building out the cellular network.
In 1990, there were about 3 million cellular users in the world. McCaw wanted me to get cellular devices into the hands of the farmers in the San Joaquin Valley, so I moved from London to Hilmar, Calif., which is about four miles outside of Turlock. I had farmers telling me they would never use a cellular phone. If I could have made money from everyone who told me they would never use a cellular phone, there would be a Mike Dotterer building at Stanford today.
I eventually moved to Oakland and started my own cellular communications business. In 2003, I move back to New York but came back to Southern California to do some consulting work for Student Sports, which runs elite sports camps.
I now have a company called 401 Network, which is a portfolio of social networks. Social networking, sports and Stanford are my passions. I am also involved in the NFL Alumni Association.
Tell us about how you became interested in social networking?
Even going back to my time with McCaw, I became very interested and familiar with social networking. I friend of mine, Jim Bryer, who graduated from Stanford in 1983 and went onto Harvard Business School, started a venture capital company with Peter Thiel. Jim and Peter met a young man at Harvard and fronted the initial capital to start a company called Facebook. Because of my connections to Jim, I was one of the first Facebook users.
As a two-sport athlete at Stanford who played baseball and football, who must have felt a special connection to Toby Gerhart.
Absolutely. When I was living in Southern California, we had a running back and outfielder who wore No. 7. I knew I wanted to watch him play every chance I could. Toby Gerhart was the reason I moved back to the Bay Area.
Toby was an outstanding baseball player and a great football player. I thought of myself as a very good baseball player and a good football player. When I played, I could get away without having to lift a lot of weights. My conditioning paled in comparison to what is required of players today. To get to the elite level he played at as a football player, Toby really had to push his body. I think that really affected him as a baseball player. Toby could have been a great baseball player. I feel very privileged to say I saw Toby Gerhart play football and baseball at Stanford.
What are some of your favorite Stanford memories?
The greatest memory I have of Stanford and the reason I love the University so much is because it's a place that allows you to pursue your passions if you are a student-athlete. That isn't the case with some other schools, especially for two-sport athletes. I was encouraged to get involved in student government and I was also very active in my fraternity - Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
Being involved at the highest level - whether in academics, athletics, public service or whatever your passion is - it's here at Stanford.
Talk a little bit about your baseball career at Stanford.
We went to back-to-back College World Series in 1982 and '83 and even though we didn't win it, I feel those teams built the foundation for the Stan Spencer, Mike Mussina and Jack McDowell teams that would follow.
Favorite football memories?
My football memories are equally fantastic. I was initially recruited to Stanford by Bill Walsh, but he left Stanford to coach the 49ers after the 1978 season. I got to play a lot as a freshman because Darrin Nelson was hurt and managed to score eight touchdowns.
We had a really exciting offense with guys like John Elway, Darrin Nelson, Kenny Margerum, Emile Henry, to name a few. I could go on and on. We felt we could score at anytime, similar to this year's Stanford team. When Elway was passing, you never knew what was going to happen.
I feel privileged to be living in an era now and watching some of the greatest football ever to be played at Stanford.
What are some of your impressions about Stanford Football today?
It starts with defense. Defensive coordinators Vic Fangio and then Derek Mason and Jason Tarver have done a great job. Defense wins championships. If the other team can't score, you will always be in the game.
To be able to watch Andrew Luck play and observe how he handles himself, his poise, humility and leadership, is really something special. The protection he is getting is unbelievable.
The combination of a defense that bends but doesn't break and Andrew Luck at quarterback has been a dream come true for Stanford fans.
Memories of John Elway?
We used to have a bowling alley at Stanford and near the bowling alley there were a lot of arcade machines. John really enjoyed playing games and competing, whether it was bowling, pinball, backgammon, pool or tennis. He wanted to beat you. He was an amazing athlete and it was an honor to play with him.
He was one of the few athletes who was able to retire on the top of his sport after winning back-to-back Super Bowls. No disrespect to our coaches at Stanford, but I always contend that if Bill Walsh would have coached John for four years, he would have won the Heisman Trophy and Stanford would have played in a couple of Rose Bowls.
I was just as much of a pleasure to play with Darrin as it was with John. True story - if Darrin didn't tear his hamstring long jumping in 1979, I would have gone to Harvard. I was being recruited by both Stanford and Harvard and in June of 1979, Jim Fassel came down to my home and told me Darrin was hurt and was going to miss the entire season. He told me if I came to Stanford, I would get to play as a freshman. Plus, I was going to be able to play baseball, too. So in some ways, Darrin Nelson paved my way to Stanford.
If you had to pick a running back that most closely resembled Barry Sanders - it was Darrin Nelson. He could do it all.
It must make you proud to see how Stanford's running game has taken shape over the last four seasons.
While Darrin Nelson was an anomaly and guys like Vincent White and myself just tried to carry the torch the best we could - the most recent Stanford teams with Toby Gerhart and Stepfan Taylor have taken it to a whole different level. The combination of power and speed has been real fun to watch. To be able to run the ball and have a guy like Andrew Luck at quarterback - that's a pretty good combination.