SAN FRANCISCO — Stanford's football team was at a low point, having lost, 20-17, to Utah in double overtime Nov. 15. It dropped the Cardinal to 5-5 with two games left in the regular season.
In the locker room after the game, a player stepped in front of his teammates and delivered a passionate, profanity-laced, motivating speech that inspired the team.
The player? Redshirt senior walk-on safety John Flacco, one of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco's five siblings.
"He just gives you that energy and that fire," said Stanford coach David Shaw, whose team won both games since that loss. The Cardinal face Maryland in Tuesday's Foster Farms Bowl.
"We had a rough game late in the year. And of all the guys on the team, John Flacco was the guy that stands up and talks about why we do all this hard work is for each other, and it was one of those galvanizing moments, and his teammates truly appreciated it."
While the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Flacco does not see much, if any, time on defense, he is a valued member of the Cardinal's special teams and is described by Shaw and teammates as one of Stanford's most respected leaders.
"He brings an emotional charge that sometimes we're missing and sometimes we need it," Stanford redshirt senior defensive tackle David Parry said. "Even though he doesn't play on defense, when John talks, everybody listens. He's a leader. That's pretty much the only way to put it."
Flacco has played in all of Stanford's 12 games and has five tackles on special teams.
"When he runs down on kickoff, you see him avoid two or three guys and defeat a block and make the tackle, he's one of those guys that jumps up and down, and everybody's always cheering for him and picking him up," Shaw said.
A biomechanical engineering major, Flacco was class valedictorian at Audubon High School in New Jersey and has been a member of the Pac-12's All-Academic Team each of the last two years.
Stanford standout quarterback Kevin Hogan, one of Flacco's roommates and close friends, said Flacco wants to be a doctor and plans to apply to medical school.
"It's just the kind of person he is," Hogan said. "He wants to help others and be there for other people and make them better and serve whatever way he can. He enjoys it. He enjoys getting up and working every day. It's just who he is as a person."