Sept. 16, 2011
STANFORD, Calif. - Shayne Skov admits it wasn't a fair fight. But as is often the case with big brother-little brother battles, he felt no sympathy for his younger sibling, Patrick.
"As I kid, I'd just gotten my first set of real football pads and he had these little toy replica pads and you're not supposed to play football in them," said Shayne, a 6-foot-3, 251-pound junior inside linebacker on the sixth-ranked Stanford football team. "I used to convince him to go out in the park and play tackle football with me. I was two years older and a lot heavier at the time. He's always been a lot tougher and little bit grittier. We both love to play the game hard and fast."
Patrick, a 6-foot-1, 234-pound true freshman, is listed third on the depth chart at fullback this week, and has no permanent scars from the skirmishes. However, the tackling drills with his brother are still fresh in his mind.
"He played Pop Warner, so he had a legitimate set of pads," Patrick recalls. "I had the $15.99 Steve Young Toys r Us pads that were absolutely nothing. So we'd go have tackling practice and it didn't last very long. Every weekend we would go out there and he would obliterate me. I guess it helped me toughen up."
Little could they have imagined winding up together at Stanford with football scholarships, playing on the same team for the first time.
"As a little kid you dream about playing football or college football, but to play together... " Shayne said, his voice trailing off. "Once I got here there was a hope, but I don't think it was ever a solid thought in our minds. But the fact that it has happened is amazing. It's a dream come true and we're just kind of living in the moment."
Shayne anchors a defense that has allowed only one touchdown through the first two games - none by the starting unit. After leading the team in tackles last year with 84, despite missing the first two games because of injury, the All-America candidate is off to a strong start in 2011. Shayne has a team-high 18 tackles, four behind the line of scrimmage.
"Shayne's biggest strength is his passion," said David Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football. "He plays with it and he practices with it. It's gotten him into trouble a few times, going too hard and going too fast. But at the same time, that's what makes him good."
Shayne, who sports a Mohawk haircut during the season and wears jersey No. 11 because the 1's resemble rockets, has never met an opposing offensive player he didn't want to pop. He goes all-out on every play.
"He doesn't half-do anything," Shaw said. "If he's going to blitz, his entire being is coming on the snap. There's no hesitation, there's no thinking, it's go. Even if you're almost ready to block him, he beats you to the punch. It's that quick and explosive."
And not by accident.
"It's something I guess I kind of acquired," Shayne said of his nasty streak. "I went through a progression as a football player. When you first start playing, eventually a switch comes on and either you can be hit or can be the aggressor. So that was the first step.
"The second is that football is a really unique sport - there's only a few like it where you literally line up in front of somebody and there's no ifs, ands or butts about it. You either beat him or you don't. It's something that I love about football and it's the reason I play the way I do."
His hardest hit?
"There was a late hit against Wake Forest last year - I got the quarterback pretty good," said Shayne. "It was my first game back from knee surgery, so I was really antsy to get back on the field. I probably shouldn't have taken the shot, but I went full-speed anyway because I hadn't played in a long time."
Shayne can also be dangerous off the field. He's a noted prankster, and even Heisman Trophy front-runner Andrew Luck isn't safe.
"I got Andrew a couple times," Shayne said. "Any time you're sleeping or not paying attention, I'm usually the one to pull something on them. Scare them when they wake up or do little things to mess with them. I like to lighten the mood."
Although Shayne and Patrick grew up in San Francisco, both attended East Coast prep schools. Fifteen years ago, their mother Teri was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and the family moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2001, where the climate was better for her health. She now lives in an assisted living facility in Emeryville to be closer to her sons, while husband Peter remains in Mexico to run a small business.
In the Stanford media guide, both brothers list their hometowns as Guadalajara.
"She's fighting," said Patrick. "It's nice to have her around here. Now I'll be able to drive over there and visit her."
Last year at The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, Patrick played fullback and linebacker, rushing for 657 yards and 15 touchdowns, and also caught 27 passes for 296 yards. He was rated the fifth-best fullback prospect in the country by Scout.com.
"There's a chance," said Shaw, when asked if Patrick will see playing time this season. "With Lee Ward getting hurt, we moved him to fullback and he's picked it up very quickly. He's got a lot of the same traits Shayne does, but we'll see on special teams if he's going to be ready to help us."
Admittedly, switching from linebacker to fullback halfway through training camp was a tough transition.
"All I can control is how hard I work and I can tell you in the off-season I worked my butt off to be able to compete and get on the field," Patrick said. "There are people who have been around here a while who know the playbook in and out. Wherever the coaches tell me to go, I'll do it. Right now that happens to be at fullback."
The Skovs are hardly the first brothers to play football together at Stanford. Others tandems include: Dave and Mike Wyman; Duncan and Milt McColl; Kevin and David Garnett; Jeff and Parker Bailey; Scott and Steve Frost; Sean and Glenn Cavanaugh; Joe, Ed and Pete St. Gene; Nate and Eric Whitaker; Warren and Konrad Reuland; Bo and Liam McNally; Ekom and Udeme Udofia; and Justin and Jamien McCullum.
Now that Patrick has proper equipment, the obvious question is whether he has popped pads with his brother?
"I was all ready to go blast him in practice and I got chipped by a man, so it was a little disappointing," said Patrick.
Expect a different answer?
Mark Soltau has been writing about amateur and professional sports for 34 years. The Palo Alto native spent 16 years at the San Francisco Examiner covering Stanford Athletics, the 49ers and golf, earning many national writing awards. In 1997, Soltau became a Bay Area columnist and national golf writer for CBS Sportsline and was also named editor of Tigerwoods.com. In 2002, he joined Golf Digest as a Contributing Editor and has covered 70 major championships.