The first thought that comes to mind when I think about Troy Walters (1996-99) is his odd position listing. He was obviously a wide receiver, but for some reason he was archaically listed as a flanker, as if he were playing for Gil Thorp instead of Tyrone Willingham. My friends and I had lots of fun with this, noting that he was frequently referred to in game summaries as "Flanker Walters." We liked to wonder if there were people out there who might think that was his actual name. During his third season, we'd see phrases like "the junior flanker scored a touchdown in the third quarter." Junior Flanker -- another great name.
Beyond all that, Walters was good. An argument could be made for Ken Margerum, and some fans might cite James Lofton's Hall of Fame NFL career as evidence in his favor, but for my money Troy Walters is the best receiver in the history of Stanford Football. At only 5'8" and 175 pounds, Walters certainly looked out of place during pre-game warm-ups, but any doubts were immediately erased once the game began. Now that the games are over, Walters sits atop almost every significant Stanford receiving list. Take a look.
- Receptions in a season: 86 in 1997
- Receptions in a career: 244
- Receiving yardage in a game: 278 vs. UCLA, 1999
- Receiving yardage in a season: 1,456 in 1999
- Receiving yardage in a career: 3,986
- 100-yard receiving games in a season: 7 in 1999
- 100-yard receiving games in a career: 19
What all that doesn't describe is how far ahead Walters is. He actually holds the top two single-season receiving marks, his career yardage total is more than a thousand yards ahead of DeRonnie Pitts in second place, and he has almost twice as many 100-yard games (19) as the second-place Pitts (10). Walters also put together three of the top five receiving games in school history. So not only is Walters the best Stanford receiver ever, no one else should really be in the conversation.
Walters reached his peak during his senior season of 1999. He caught 74 passes for 1,456 yards and ten touchdowns and was the best player on the field in every game. The post-season awards piled up like Christmas presents under the tree: All-Pac-10, Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year, First Team Academic All-America, Consensus First Team All-America, and the Biletnikoff Award for the nation's top receiver. All of that looks nice in a trophy case (or in Walters's current office), but I'm guessing he's proudest that he led Stanford to its first Rose Bowl appearance in decades.
Walters dislocated his right wrist in practice during the week leading up to the Rose Bowl, and he was initially ruled out for the game. I was in the Rose Bowl on the afternoon of January 1, 2000 (the world had thankfully not come to an end as many had predicted), and held out hope that Walters would somehow be healthy enough to play. I scanned the field through my binoculars as the Stanford players came out for warmups, and sure enough -- there was #5. Essentially playing with one hand, Walters still managed to catch three passes for fifty-two yards as Stanford lost to Wisconsin, 17-9. Could a healthy Walters have been worth eight points? Obviously.
Even though that loss was disappointing, it did nothing to change his legacy. Troy Walters was one of the best players in Stanford history.
#5 Brad Muster
#6 Ron George
#7 Glyn Milburn
#8 Ed McCaffrey
#9 Owen Marecic
#10 Tommy Vardell
#11 Tank Williams
#12 Steve Stenstrom
#13 Riall Johnson
#14 Kailee Wong
#15 Eric Heitmann
#15 Chris Marinelli
#16 John Lynch
#17 Kwame Harris
#18 Chase Beeler
#19 Willie Howard
#20 Shayne Skov
#21 DeRonnie Pitts
#22 Anthony Bookman
#23 Sione Fua
#24 Richard Sherman
#25 John Hopkins
*My first thought was to try to come up with a list of the best Stanford football players of all-time, but I quickly realized that I'm not qualified. I've only been watching Stanford football since the fall of 1987, so I can't really comment intelligently on players who suited up before then. Sure, I know that Jim Plunkett belongs, but I know nothing about Randy Vataha. Sports Illustrated once named Ernie Nevers the greatest college football player of all-time, and that's certainly good enough for me, but how can I possibly rank him against players of a more modern era? So I decided to create a list of the best Stanford players that I've actually seen in my time as a fan, and since that's roughly twenty-five years, I'm calling it the Silver Squad. (Catchy, isn't it?) Anyway, I'd love to hear your own memories of these players, and I won't be offended if you argue about who should or should not have been included on this list. Enjoy.