Owen Marecic has spent four seasons juggling academics and athletics at Stanford. His trip to New York earlier this month captured the dichotomy of his life in one plane flight.
Marecic, the starting fullback and linebacker for the No. 4 Cardinal, came east to be honored by the National Football Foundation as a Campbell Trophy finalist and winner of an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. The black-tie dinner landed smack in the middle of finals week, so Marecic brought his finals with him.
"When I flew out, I had the row of three seats to myself," Marecic said. "I put down all three tray tables. I spread out all my work.
"And then," Marecic said with a smile, "I fell asleep."
Marecic has been celebrated as a Renaissance man, one who has thrived as a student and two athletes. The demands he placed on himself this season necessitated time management worthy of an efficiency expert. For instance, he performed the team's mandatory Monday weightlifting on Sunday so that he could "sleep in" the next day. How late would that be?
"Eight or so," Marecic said with a smile.
The vast Stanford University campus is almost completely encircled by Campus Drive, a road that alternates between two lanes and four as it snakes through the eucalyptus trees and around the Spanish architecture. Within the embrace of Campus Drive are almost all the classrooms, labs and libraries that feed the considerable academic life for which The Farm is known.
On the other side of Campus Drive, on the outside looking in, are Stanford Stadium and the Arrillaga Family Sports Center, which houses the football offices and meeting rooms. Whether by design or not, the boundary has established itself among the university administrators and faculty who see that separation as proper for the role of athletics.
Campus Drive is also a metaphor for the task that Marecic has mastered.
"We talk about that a lot as a team," Marecic said one day late this season. "When you cross Campus Drive out there, you kind of have to flip the switch. There's a lot to take care of on that side of campus in terms of school and stuff. When you get to this side of campus, it's a whole different feel. It's time for football."
Marecic's big, bruising presence on the field does not square with the soft-spoken intellect he presents off it. College life engages both sides of his personality.
"The kids here are so smart," Marecic said. "And they all have majors, subjects that they are passionate about. That's the trick, to find something. Being an athlete, if I can find a major that I am as passionate about as I am football, then that makes the whole difference. You really find people who are motivated within their fields. It's great to be in class with them. They set the bar and push everybody else in class."
That might explain why Marecic is majoring in human biology.
"Technically, my major is infectious disease, international health and national security, so it's kind of all those ideas in one. It's almost an excuse to take whatever class I want. Stanford, especially the hum-bio major, is great because it is so interdisciplinary, you can take classes from a lot of different disciplines and really take a diverse selection of courses. You really can try to look at the whole picture."
Marecic sees Campus Drive as a switch, not a line of demarcation. He said he has never felt stereotyped by professors, and especially not by other students.
"Football is almost what you do in your spare time to them," Marecic said. "They do labs in their spare time. It's kind of, 'That's what he's interested in, and this is what I'm interested in.' It's not really a big deal, I don't think, around here. When you're in the classroom, it's just a different kind of feel. It's kind of going back to that student-athlete thing. Everybody here is kind of a student. People view you that way."
Everybody may be a student. But if Marecic has proved nothing else during his Stanford career, it is that he is equally at home on either side of Campus Drive.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com and hosts the ESPNU College Football podcast. Send your questions and comments to him at Ivan.Maisel@ESPN.com.