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Original Issue


The largest break dancer in Palo Alto, Calif., also claims to be the nation's best at a Nintendo football game called Tecmo Bowl. But real football is Bob Whitfield's true calling. He passed up schools like Notre Dame, Michigan, Miami and UCLA to attend Stanford, and last season, as a true freshman, he played every single down at offensive tackle for a Cardinal team that finished 3-8.

Stanford lists Whitfield at 6'7", 300 pounds, but he says he's really a mere 6'6", 280. He lost the weight—if not the height—during the summer by working in a warehouse and giving up Snickers bars, M&M's and the other sweets he loves. But who's quibbling over a few pounds? The kid is so huge, in potential as well as body, that a little hyperbole can be forgiven.

And speaking of hyperbole, get this from Whitfield: "Before I graduate, we're going to play in the Rose Bowl." Football history buffs might inform Whitfield, who won't turn 19 until Oct. 18, that he was barely two months old when the Cardinal made its last Rose Bowl appearance, in 1972.

Stanford coach Dennis Green, who is responsible for snatching Whitfield away from Notre Dame, can only hope that he gets three more seasons from his prize catch. For a man his size, Whitfield does a nifty bit of dodging when asked if he intends to stay at Stanford instead of turning pro early. Indeed, Whitfield acts as if he has not thought much past the next Tecmo Bowl game on the 40-inch TV in his dorm lounge.

"Me and about 10 other guys on the team play all the time," Whitfield says. "I think I'm the best in the country, but I'm sure the other guys would call me a liar. It's just like real football. The guys get intense, they scream, it's great."

Until he began playing football, as a 260-pound ninth-grader, Whitfield was, he says, "a big, clumsy kid." However, by the time he was a senior at Banning High in Carson, Calif., he had developed the eye-hand coordination necessary for a Nintendo wizard and the agility to dazzle the ladies with his break dancing.

"I always wanted to be little," says Whitfield, "but it didn't turn out that way."

Little? Why little?

"Because I was always told that the little guys get the girls," Whitfield says. "I'm trying to prove that wrong." But don't get the idea that because the big guy is light on his feet, he's easy to push around. He was the Cardinal's best blocker last season, making second-team All-Pac-10. And when Arizona State linebacker Israel Stanley kept mouthing off at Whitfield last season, Stanley got punched for his trouble. "Before I socked him, he thought I was a weenie," says Whitfield. "Then he found out I was Tyson." Stanley's behavior was improved for the rest of the game.

Although Whitfield was the Cardinal's youngest starter, he was a team leader by the end of the season. Before the season ender against California—the Big Game, as it's known in the Bay Area—he was selected to approach Green on behalf of the team, to request that the Cardinal be allowed to wear red pants with red jerseys. When Green acquiesced, the players were so happy that they beat the Bears 24-14.

"It was a change of pace, and the team really liked that," Whitfield says. "Now we've got to get him to go for black cleats. We have to have them, because they make you feel like you're so much tougher. Nobody has asked him about it yet, but I'm sure it will be me. They always nominate me."

Anybody want to bet against the black shoes?