STANFORD, Calif. - Thomas Oser knew his football life had changed when he reported for his first summer conditioning workout at Stanford. The 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive lineman from Los Angeles usually towered over players in high school.
“It’s a good thing and something I’m really appreciating,” he said this week. “At the high school level, I was the biggest guy on the field. Out here, I’m just average size for the O-line guys. It’s making me realize there’s going to be a lot more work to put in.”
Oser attended Harvard-Westlake School in Westlake Village, the alma mater of former Stanford basketball standouts Jarron and Jason Collins. He said several of his teammates on the offensive line weighed 150 pounds.
“It’s a little different,” said Oser of the Cardinal roster. “It’s a higher level of play and a lot faster. Guys are definitely bigger.”
Not that he feels overwhelmed. Many Cardinal veterans have helped him adjust.
“They’ve been teaching us the basics and everything coach (Mike) Bloomgren (Andrew Luck Director of Offensive/Offensive Line) wanted to see and what we can do to make sure that we’re improving at a good rate, so by the time we hit camp, we can get right into it,” Oser said. “It’s all about the effort we put in ourselves. The coaches can yell at us and whatnot, but it’s all on us. We have to push ourselves to be the best we can.”
Stanford, the defending Pac-12 Champion, begins fall training camp on August 11. Oser is one of 11 true freshmen hoping to make a good first impression.
“I want to do the best I can,” Oser said. “I’ve been training and getting better each day. Going into camp, I just want to see how I progress. My goal right now is to stay mentally and physically focused and really try my best to learn the playbook and stay on top of things. I’ve heard things are going to be thrown at us pretty quickly.”
Oser grew up in New Jersey and moved to Los Angeles during the summer before his freshman year in high school. He played lacrosse until his sophomore year, then decided to concentrate on football.
“I’m an East Coast kid,” he said. “As far back as I can remember, once kids stopped playing baseball, they pick up football and lacrosse. Lacrosse definitely helped me in both sports because I was able to move around and use good footwork. They really compliment each other.”
What does Oser, named the 29th-best offensive guard and California’s 50th-best overall prospect by Rivals, enjoy most about being an offensive lineman?
“I forget whose quote it was, but moving a person from point a to point b against their will,” said Oser, referring to former Washington Redskins star Russ Grimm, who made the comment at his 2010 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction. “Just being able to move people and strike fear in some people’s heart.”
Oser also received scholarship offers from Oregon and Vanderbilt, but loved the Stanford campus. The nice weather didn’t hurt, either.
“In New Jersey, I was used to being able to go out on my bike and go around the neighborhood,” he said. “Then I moved to L.A., and that kind of stopped. I lived in the hills and biking wasn’t a very convenient way to get around. There’s always a layer of smog covering the city. When I came out here, it reminded me of home. Getting around by bike and breathing fresh air really struck me.”
So did the people he met.
“I knew Oregon and Stanford were doing really well in football,” said Oser. “The thing I was more concerned about was the type of people on those teams. When I went for my visits, I really tried to get to know the guys that I’d be spending the new few years with and felt more at home at Stanford.”
Palo Alto native Mark Soltau has spent his whole life and much of his career around Stanford sports. A sportswriter for 35 years, Soltau spent 16 (1981-97) at the San Francisco Examiner, where he covered not only the Cardinal, but all five 49ers Super Bowl-championship teams. Golf always has been his passion and Soltau served as the sport's beat writer for the Examiner, national golf writer for CBS Sportsline, contributing editor to Golf Digest, and since 1997 has been the editor of tigerwoods.com.