STANFORD, Calif. -- Watch the replay of Ryan Hewitt's 10-yard touchdown reception in the third-quarter of Stanford’s 31-28 win Saturday night over Cal. That will tell you all you need to know about the fullback.
Hewitt caught the pass from quarterback Andrew Luck at the Cal 7 yard line. Conventional wisdom says to take a diagonal vector and head for the pylon -- distancing yourself from any defenders. But Hewitt has shown to be anything but conventional this season. He went on the hunt and sought contact at the goal line.
“I’ve just always played that way,” Hewitt said. “I don’t have great vision. I figured I could score if I could run north and maybe save myself a few steps.”
It’s that kind of play that makes Hewitt a favorite target for Luck. That and Hewitt's hands. Luck has targeted Hewitt 32 times this season and Hewitt has caught 30 of those (93.8 completion percentage) for 266 yards and five touchdowns. Saturday night, he caught all seven balls thrown his way for 64 yards and the score.
“He’s always the guy,” Luck said. “He comes to play. I can’t tell you his nickname on the team because there are words that aren’t suitable for the public. He’s the resident bad aaaaaaaa… . He does his job. He doesn’t complain. He gets nicks and bruises. He learned a lot from Owen [Marecic] but he adds his own flavor and personality to the position. He does a great job blocking and catching. You can’t ask for more out of him.”
Hewitt, of course, made more than just plays with his hands. Aside from his usual blocking duties, he ran the ball twice, both on third-and-1, and converted both with room to spare.
“Ryan Hewitt is one of the best football players I’ve ever been around,” said head coach David Shaw. “The guy can line up at fullback, outside at receiver, or in the slot at receiver. We lined him up at tight end again today. I can’t say enough about him.”
When tight end Zach Ertz went down with a knee injury against USC, Hewitt -- who already played a significant role in the passing game -- had to become even more versatile than he had been.
Consider that in the first seven games of the season, Hewitt was targeted 17 times for 15 catches, 143 yards and three touchdowns. In the last four games (starting with USC), he's been targeted 15 times with 15 catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He's averaging an additional 10 receiving yards per game during that stretch.
But it was that one play that encapsulates everything Hewitt is about.
“Stanford fullbacks look for contact,” Shaw said. “That’s the bottom line. You saw it in Owen Marecic. Ryan spent two years behind him really watching Owen. One of the things we say all the time is our fullbacks don’t step out of bounds. They get knocked out of bounds. It’s the way that he plays and we love him for it.”