Aug. 7, 2010
STANFORD, Calif. - Rachel Buehler is 24 years old and has no children. So, why do her teammates call her "Mom?"
There is, after all, a sensitive side to the United States national team and former Stanford defender.
"That's the `Mom' thing," said Ali Riley, who plays alongside Buehler with Women's Professional Soccer's FC Gold Pride and did so at Stanford. "You can go to her for anything. You can trust her on and off the field."
And there's the other side, and the reason teammates call her "Buehl-Dozer." She's the player who simply refuses to lose, and has the speed, strength, and dominance in the air to control a match.
"She will do anything to prevent a forward from getting behind us," Riley said.
Perhaps it was the combination of those two personalities that intrigued coach Pia Sundhage enough to name Buehler captain of the national team, making her one of 12 women to ever receive such official designation. The list includes Julie Foudy -- another former Stanford star who held the post for 13 years -- as well as greats such as Michelle Akers, Joy Fawcett, Kristine Lilly, and Carla Overbeck.
Buehler, primarily a central defender, shares the captaincy with Christie Rampone, 35, a veteran of more than 200 appearances with the national team and, with two daughters, truly fulfills the "Mom" label.
"Pia came to me with the idea and asked if I was interested," Buehler said.
Once Buehler returned to earth, Sundhage explained that she was looking for a "good complement" to Rampone, and a younger player who could grow in that role with the next generation of American talent.
"I try to lead by example, be positive and provide encouragement to my teammates," Buehler said.
"She has a big heart," Sundhage told espn.com. "She has the best attitude and is as professional as can be. She will be a good role model."
That's not hard, said Jay Cooney, an assistant coach at Stanford and with the Gold Pride.
"She's earned this from working hard," Cooney said. "If she needs to improve something, she'll work it until it gets better, and people will follow her lead. You can't ask somebody to work if you're not going to work yourself. She's the first in the training room and the first on the field to warm up, and she always has been."
Cooney has seen that work ethic from a different perspective. He was in the stadium in Edmonton, when Buehler, who was having an outstanding tournament at the Under-19 World Cup in 2002, tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee just minutes into the championship match.
Two weeks after returning to the field from extensive rehabilitation, Buehler tore the ACL in her left knee.
Perhaps that's one reason Buehler said, "the last few years have been a dream."
Her serious approach to fitness has contributed to injury-free soccer since, and has allowed her to rise to the top of the sport. She earned her first full national-team cap in March 2008 (after earning second-team All-America honors at Stanford in 2006 and '07), won an Olympic gold medal in Beijing that summer, and now captains the first-place Gold Pride.
"I thought I would be in medical school," Buehler said. "But everything has happened so quickly."
Like wearing the armband.
On July 17, Buehler took the field in East Hartford, Conn., for a friendly against Sweden as the national team captain.
"It was an awesome moment," Buehler said. "I felt so honored and so humbled. I thought of the girls who came before me. Those ladies were my heroes."
The U.S. won, 3-0, and will begin qualifying for the 2011 World Cup later this year. Her leadership will be vital.
"I'm really Christie's helper," Buehler said. "I definitely feel a lot of responsibility, and more weight on my shoulders. But, at the same time, I'll do whatever I can to help."
Meanwhile, medical school will have to wait.
"She didn't want to apply to med school and defer because she didn't want to take somebody else's spot," Cooney said. "That's the type of kid she is."
Sundhage might agree. Asked for her reasons for Buehler's appointment, Sundhage said, "She never lets you down."
Just like Mom.
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FOOTBALL: Fangio recalls Hall of Famer Jackson
New Stanford defensive coordinator Vic Fangio will be in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday to watch one of his former players, Rickey Jackson, be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Fangio was the linebackers coach for the New Orleans Saints from 1986-94, coaching Jackson, who stands No. 3 on the NFL's all-time sacks list with 128, for seven of those seasons.
"Rickey was a guy who had tremendous ability," Fangio said. "He was one of those guys who was born to play football.
"He was great in all phases of the game - a great pass rusher, great against the run, and a great pass defender. When he had to drop in coverage, he was really good. But what put him above and beyond the rest were his tremendous instincts and feel for the game. He saw things quicker and clearer than most people do."
Fangio felt Jackson's physical ability and passion didn't need refining. Rather, the coach's job was to teach him to read the game.
"I tried to take him to his full potential and really teach him the finer points of the game from a technique and know-how standpoint, from the perspective of what offenses are trying to do, why they're trying to do it and how we combat that," Fangio said. "He was a great student of the game. He was very attentive at meetings, wanted to be coached, and was very very coachable."
The Saints' linebacking corps of Jackson, Sam Mills, Vaughn Johnson and Pat Swilling was known as the "Dome Patrol," a group the NFL Network judged as the best in NFL history.
Is that assessment accurate?
"Without a doubt," Fangio said. "As a group, you've got Rickey who's in the Hall of Fame, Sam Mills who I feel should be in the Hall of Fame, and then you've got Pat and Vaughn, who are knocking on the door also. Those guys are going to be getting some consideration in upcoming years, and rightfully so."
The Saints were miserable until those years, making the franchise's first four playoff appearances and winning the 1991 NFC West title over the dominant team of that era, the Montana-Rice-Young San Francisco 49ers.
"We had some good battles against the 49ers," Fangio said. "They won much more than we did, but we at least gave them a headache."
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BASEBALL: Storen closing in on closer role
Even though the Washington Nationals are now using a closer by committee, the recent trade of 2010 All-Star reliever Matt Capps to Minnesota appears to have cleared the way for former Stanford star Drew Storen to seize the job in the coming months or next season.
Storen (3-2, 2.38), the No. 10 overall pick in the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft, has had an outstanding rookie season since making his big league debut May 17.
And his `Q' rating is apparently rising, being a studio guest on Jim Rome's nationally-syndicated radio show Friday.
Among the highlights:
Why did he turn down the New York Yankees, and a relatively lucrative signing bonus, after being drafted in the 34th round of the 2007 draft out of Brownsburg (Ind.) High School?
"For me, the Stanford experience and the opportunity to play at Stanford was the best thing that happened at the time. To me, the way Coach Marquess runs the program is very old school."
Does he see himself as the Nationals' closer?
"That's the goal. If I get the shot at the top, I'll eat it up."
Does his Stanford education makes him a target for ribbing from teammates?
"It's not so much that. They usually have me answer a lot of questions that I can't answer."
How do Storen and his fellow relievers spend their hours in the bullpen?
"We manage the team. We think we're the best managers and the best umpires. But, really, I sit with them and pick the brains of the veteran guys. It's a perfect opportunity to learn about the hitters and to improve as a pitcher."
* * *
ATHLETICS: Fall teams open practice
The women's soccer team was the first team on campus to report. The Cardinal, coming off a 25-1 season and its first appearance in an NCAA final, opened two-a-day training on Aug. 4.
Here are the dates of the opening practice sessions for the other fall sports:
Aug. 9: Football
Aug. 9: Women's volleyball
Aug. 11: Field hockey
Aug. 16: Men's soccer
Aug. 19: Men's water polo
Aug. 27: Men's and women's cross country.
* * *
FOOTBALL: Mattran makes 20 Cardinal in NFL training camps
The St. Louis Rams signed center Tim Mattran on Friday, making 20 former Stanford players in NFL training camps.
Mattran, whose final season at Stanford was 2007, signed with the Rams in March, but was released later in the spring. He has been on the practice squads of the Minnesota Vikings and Oakland Raiders, but has yet to play in a regular-season game.
Here are the former Stanford players who are NFLveterans, and their current teams:
Jon Alston, LB (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Oshiomogho Atogwe, DB (St. Louis Rams)
Greg Camarillo, WR (Miami Dolphins)
Kirk Chambers, OT (Buffalo Bills)
Chris Draft, LB (Washington Redskins)
Trent Edwards, QB (Buffalo Bills)
Eric Heitmann, C (San Francisco 49ers)
Evan Moore, TE (Cleveland Browns)
Alex Smith, TE (Cleveland Browns)
Will Svitek, OT (Atlanta Falcons)
Leigh Torrence, DB (New Orleans Saints)
Coy Wire, LB (Atlanta Falcons)
Here are the players looking to make their NFL debut:
Jim Dray, TE (Arizona Cardinals)
Pannel Egboh, DE (Houston Texans)
Toby Gerhart, RB (Minnesota Vikings)
Matt Kopa, OT (San Francisco 49ers)
Erik Lorig, DE (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
Chris Marinelli, OT (Indianapolis Colts)
Tim Mattran, C (St. Louis Rams)
Allen Smith, OG (Oakland Raiders)
* * *
FOOTBALL: Walters to Texas A&M
Troy Walters, Stanford's 1999 Biletnikoff Award winner as the top receiver in college football, was named receivers coach at Texas A&M. Walters was a late replacement for veteran coach Steve Kragthorpe who resigned suddenly because of family issues. Walters' father, Trent, was an assistant with the Aggies in 1991-93.
Walters left an offensive coordinator position at Indiana State, but the Sycamores still have a Stanford presence on their coaching staff. Luke Powell, a first-team All-America kick returner for the Cardinal in 2001, is entering his second season as Indiana State's receivers coach.
Powell, by the way, was an option quarterback in high school and played the position in all the action sequences in the film "We Are Marshall."
-- David Kiefer, Stanford Athletics
Ideas for future notebook items are welcomed. Please contact David Kiefer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Past editions of the weekly Cardinal Insider can be found on the main page of gostanford.com by clicking on "General Releases" from the "Sports" pull-down menu.