Tim Nunes, Associated Press
STANFORD, Calif. — Josh Nunes grew up in the shadows of Southern California's championships.
He had family and friends with UCLA roots, and no hint of football anywhere in his past.
Just a father who saw Stanford in his future.
Everything about the newly selected starting quarterback can be traced back to a single moment.
Tim Nunes came home one day when Josh was 8 years old, sneaked up from behind and plopped a red hat on his son's head. Josh looked at the logo, an "S'' with a tree in the middle, and smiled.
"He's like, 'Oh, what's this?'" his father said. "I said, 'That's where you belong. You're going to go there one day.'"
Never mind that they had no connection to the university.
Something about his son's smarts steered his father, who has a degree from UCLA, to push aside the Bruins and Trojans hats that day at the Chick's Sporting Goods near the family's home in Upland and reach for the Cardinal cap.
Josh "wore the heck of that hat," he said, even if it often fueled his friends.
He took French classes in high school because he read Stanford's admissions accepted more students who spoke that than Spanish as a secondary language — "French came in real handy in Southern California," he joked.
His first college game was watching Trent Edwards and Stanford lose 21-0 to UCLA at the Rose Bowl on Oct. 30, 2004. He graduated high school with a 4.6 grade-point average, turning down offers from football powers Florida, Oklahoma and Tennessee among others for the Silicon Valley school.
"It just goes to show you," he said, "that I always wanted to be a Stanford man."
Now Nunes is THE Stanford man.
The redshirt junior quarterback will make his first collegiate start and begin the post-Andrew Luck era when No. 21 Stanford hosts San Jose State on Friday night.
Walking on campus last week, Nunes already was recognized by students and at least one elderly woman who promised to bring her camera and ask for a photo next time.
"I've had to pinch myself to make sure it's real," said his mother, Debbie.
Nunes grew up playing baseball, soccer and just about any sport but football. He struck out all 18 batters in a Little League game when he was 12 years old, his father said, and threw a four-seam fastball clocked in the 90s in high school and an overhand curve.
His dad, a private contractor, avoided Pop Warner Football "like the plague" for fear of injuries and overbearing coaches.
Not until flag football in the eighth grade did Nunes ever throw a pigskin competitively, and he doesn't even count freshman football at Upland High School because "I spent the whole year learning everything."
By the end of his sophomore season, then-Hawaii coach June Jones offered him a scholarship. Soon Urban Meyer at Florida and coaches from the Southeastern Conference to the renamed Pac-12 came calling.
"It kind of took us back like, 'Oh, this is something I might want to look into,'" Nunes said.
For Nunes, there really only was one choice.
He took recruiting visits to Stanford and Southern California for baseball, too, but committed to Stanford as soon as former football coach Jim Harbaugh offered him a scholarship and the admission's office approved his transcript.
Nunes is majoring in management science and engineering, which he describes as an "engineering degree with a business focus," particularly on entrepreneurship and start-ups.
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