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Stanford head coach David Shaw watches Broncos practice


STANFORD, Calif. --As David Shaw watched the Broncos practice Thursday, he stood at a unique -- and prestigious -- spot in coaching circles.

Stanford's wildly successful head coach sits at the helm of a program firmly in college football's elite. But Stanford is also a program renowned for its deep connections to the NFL and the coaching and tactical philosophy of many in the league, not only through the two stints and profound ties to Hall of Famer Bill Walsh, but a host of players, including Broncos legends John Elway and Ed McCaffrey, both of whom are on hand in the Bay Area this week as general manager and radio color analyst, respectively.

Walsh's philosophies still guided the San Francisco 49ers in 1994, when Gary Kubiak worked on the 49ers' staff under Mike Shanahan, then the 49ers' offensive coordinator and then-head coach George Seifert.

When Shanahan and Kubiak returned to Denver a year later, so much of their plan -- from offensive philosophy to daily schedules and routines -- was built off the Walsh template.

And just as Walsh's influence continues to this day with the Broncos, it lingers at Stanford, as well.

"Bill, to me, was the definition of a football coach," Shaw said. "When it came to scheme, he was brilliant. There was nobody better -- ever. When it came to motivating players, he could do that as a team, but he could also motivate individually. He could get to guys and talk to them silently, or if he knew that chewing out a guy would help him, he would do that.

"He would do whatever it took: trick him, tease him, play with him. Whatever it was, the end goal was to get the best out of every single player, and I don't know that anyone has ever done it as well as Bill Walsh."

Today, Stanford's football team is guided by Shaw and powered by the phenomenal exploits of McCaffrey's son Christian, a Heisman Trophy finalist with a skill set unlike any other. But Christian is a Colorado kid through and through, and supports his old man's team, only strengthening the bond between Stanford and the Broncos.

"It's funny, after the AFC Championship Game, I called Christian, and Christian was so excited because his team is coming to practice in his stadium, and his dad's coming," Shaw said. "It's been a special time, and I'm excited for Sunday.

There was no better spot for the Broncos to practice this week than Stanford Stadium. The field was pristine; the locker room was immaculate.

"It means a lot, because we've got such a great community here and we put so much into these facilities," Shaw said. "To be able to share it with the NFL, and a franchise like the Denver Broncos -- especially one that's been associated with Stanford University, with John Elway and Ed McCaffrey -- that's so special for us.

"I'm glad that it's working out for the team, but we're just excited to host them."

The Broncos took to the practice fields on Thursday to continue Super Bowl 50 preparations. (All photos by Eric Lars Bakke)

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