Oct. 29, 2012
By Mark Soltau
STANFORD, Calif. - Ryan Hewitt came to Stanford as a tight end, pretty certain that's where he would leave his mark on the football program. Turns out he was a fullback waiting to happen.
Hewitt played tight end on the scout team as a freshman in 2009, but was switched to fullback in spring practice by former head coach Jim Harbaugh.
"We had a couple walk-on fullbacks and they both quit," said Hewitt, a chiseled 6-foot-4, 248-pound senior from Denver, Colorado. "Harbaugh just asked me to take some reps and I ended up holding my own. It just kind of stuck."
Harbaugh never made a big deal about it, and neither did Hewitt.
"There was never even a full conversation," Hewitt said. "From that day on, I just kind of did it. I never questioned it and enjoyed it from Day One."
The switch has proved advantageous for both sides. Hewitt played in all 13 games as a backup to Owen Marecic in 2010, and started 11 games last year, showing off his skills as a blocker and receiver. He caught 34 passes - third-most on the team - for 282 yards and five touchdowns.
How important has Hewitt been to the Cardinal offense? Of his 44 combined touches last year - 34 receiving, 10 rushes - 30 resulted in either a first down (25) or a touchdown (5).
"I think Ryan is one of the most versatile players in college football," said David Shaw, the Bradford M. Freeman Director of Football at Stanford. "He can run block, pass block, catch-and-run, and as a runner he can play H-back or fullback. He can just do so much for us in critical situations in all of those positions."
Like Marecic, Hewitt's long blond hair hangs below his helmet. And like Marecic, who now plays for the Cleveland Browns, Hewitt is a tough, quiet, no-nonsense guy who battles every play.
"He taught me how to come out and play my butt off every day," Hewitt said of Marecic. "He brought the same work ethic every single day -- that real, blue-collar mentality. Didn't say much, didn't need to. He just came out and hit people in the mouth play after play."
The humble Marecic, who played fullback and linebacker as a senior, wasn't much for doling out advice. Not that he wasn't helpful to Hewitt.
"He never coached me," he said. "I had to ask him. When I did, he always answered the questions very thoroughly. It was a good relationship. I learned how to compete and be a good fullback."
As for his hair, he just likes it long.
"My dad had long hair back in the day," said Hewitt. "I remember when I took one of my visits, Bo McNally (strong safety) still had his long hair. Once I got here, I just let it grow."
Hewitt missed the first two games this year due to an ankle injury, but has come back strong. He enjoys all aspects of his position because neither he nor the opposition knows what's coming next.
"Being able to do multiple things helps the team in a lot of ways," said Hewitt. "You can keep the same person on the field in pass blocking or pound the rock using the same player. I think it's a huge advantage for the offense because the defense won't be able to get any keys for substitutions."
What does Hewitt enjoy most about playing fullback?
"I love doing it all, to be honest," he said. "I love kicking out the guy, and then the next play slipping out and catching the ball out in the flat. I love it because it frustrates the defense. I just like the whole package."
Hewitt credits Dave Logan, his coach at J.K. Mullen High School in Denver, for instilling many of the skills he brought to Stanford. Logan was a standout wide receiver in the NFL for nine seasons and has been coaching high school football in the Denver area for 19 years.
"He was a great coach," said Hewitt, who caught 34 passes for 476 yards and four touchdowns as a senior. "He taught me technique and mentality. He taught me how to forget bad plays and not get too excited with good plays. Try to keep an even keel at all times.
"It helps, too, when you've got a guy like him that is so renowned. You automatically give him a little extra respect and really listen to what he says and try to make it a part of your everyday life."
Logan said the credit goes to Hewitt.
"I'm extremely proud of what he's accomplished," Logan said. "It's not surprising. He's a terrific student and a natural ball catcher, and he runs very well for his size. He's a really smart football player, but his biggest trait is his competitiveness.
"I still think there's a big upside for Ryan, both at Stanford and beyond."
Hewitt grew up a Denver Broncos fans and liked watching former Stanford stars John Elway and John Lynch compete, along with Shannon Sharpe and Terrell Davis.
"My dad always thought I would be a tight end and showed me those guys," Hewitt said.
Attending Stanford turned out to be an easy choice for Hewitt.
"I looked around," he said. "Stanford was my first offer. I remember the day I got the offer. I called my mom and told her about it and she was really excited. She said it was the best offer I was going to get. I didn't know what she meant until I kind of looked into it. Nothing really compared as far as every facet of life. I committed early."
Winning is contagious. After totaling at least 11 wins each of the last two seasons, Hewitt said there is a new culture around the Stanford football program
"Guys around here expect to win," said Hewitt. "Another thing that you notice is a bunch of guys were on successful teams in high school. A bunch of guys have like eight titles or competed in a championship game. It's something that you desire greatly."
A science, technology, and society major, Hewitt likes working on his prized Camaro and reading books, especially thrillers by Dan Brown. He also likes interacting with fellow students.
"There are amazing people at this school," he said. "The amazing thing is you don't even know about half of it because people don't go around flaunting it. They may be a great pianist or musician, and you have no idea. They just go about their everyday life. That's always impressed me."