STANFORD, Calif. (AP) — For most major college football programs, summer is a time for players to load up on classes and concentrate on conditioning for the upcoming season.
Not at Stanford.
Cardinal players are cashing in on a one-of-a-kind resource run by the football office. About 50 to 70 work as paid interns in the offseason as part of The 12th Man Summer Jobs Program, which connects players with employers.
Players land jobs throughout Silicon Valley in everything from technology startups, law firms, venture capital firms, banks, medical research, insurance agencies and hotels to tutoring services and public policy work. The program helps players afford to stay near campus so they can participate in voluntary offseason workouts.
“Everybody’s doing some pretty cool things. And everybody’s pretty busy,” said wide receiver Jordan Pratt, who is working with an investment management firm this summer after two previous internships in energy and engineering. “There’s a good chunk of guys wearing dress clothes as they’re running into the locker room trying to make the lifting session or the run.”
The internship program has been going on for decades at Stanford but has become more structured and more widely used in recent years.
Part of the reason the program has flourished is the university’s proximity to Silicon Valley’s many companies. Stanford also has been more aggressive about transforming its tough admissions standard from a burden to a benefit, a recruiting strategy that started under former coach Jim Harbaugh and has been carried on and eclipsed by David Shaw and his staff.
Stanford director of football operations Matt Doyle, who oversees the jobs program, meets with players individually a few weeks after the season ends each January. He talks to them about what work they’ve done and what work they want to do before coaching them through the resume-writing process.
All the while, Doyle is a de facto headhunter who is in contact with companies seeking summer interns. By the end of spring practices, players are going through interviews. They all have jobs by June.
Doyle specifies strict guidelines to employers to make sure they comply with NCAA rules: players must make the same amount of money as other interns (typically $10 to $20 an hour), they can’t get paid for work not performed and they can’t get the job simply because they’re a Stanford football player.
“They have to go through the wringer just like everybody else,” Doyle said.
Players usually complete internships in six weeks and work anywhere from 20 to 40 hours a week.
Chase Beeler, an All-American center as a senior in 2010, interned for two law firms and a venture capital firm while at Stanford before bouncing around a few NFL practice squads. Now he works as an analyst at Altamont Capital Partners, a private equity firm in Palo Alto with more than $1 billion in capital. Beeler met his boss during an internship as a student.
“Summer was an opportunity to build your network, and that’s frankly indispensable once your football days are over,” Beeler said.
Andrew Luck, drafted No. 1 overall by the Indianapolis Colts in 2012, interned with Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes in 2009 — learning the ins and outs of a pro sports franchise. The partnership between Stanford and the Earthquakes has continued since.
Completing an internship during offseason conditioning still creates a hectic schedule.
Fifth-year senior defensive end Henry Anderson, who is wrapping up his most recent internship at a private equity firm, described a typical day like this: wake up at 8 a.m., at work by 9 a.m., out of work by 3:30 p.m., working out with teammates at Stanford at 4:30 p.m. and heading home about 8 p.m.
“We look forward to summer when the season ends. But the funny thing is, once we’re in summer we’re working just as hard if not harder,” Anderson said.
Not every player comes to Doyle because they need help landing an internship.
Pratt, who played baseball in the minors before starting his Stanford football career, is majoring in energy and design engineering. He landed internships in the energy field himself the previous two summers but decided to go through Doyle this year so he could stay closer to campus, get some business experience and have more flexible hours.
“It’s just a lot easier when you have a middle man kind of sticking up for you and communicating to companies how much time football consumes,” Pratt said.
Doyle said players are attractive candidates to companies — many of which already employ Stanford alums — because of the school’s strong academics and players’ experience working on a team, performing under pressure and juggling assignments.
Doyle also credits the internship program for Stanford’s accolades on the field and in the classroom. Stanford has won two straight Pac-12 championships while graduating 100 percent of its players.
“There’s no coincidence that’s why we’ve been successful,” he said. “They’re establishing the work ethic in the summer that it takes to be successful in the fall — and in life.”
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.