Stanford football in 2017 has been all about the phenomenal performances of running back Bryce Love. The quarterback play hasn’t been as great.
The Cardinal began the season with Keller Chryst as the program’s starter, but have since bounced between he and backup K.J. Costello. The latter received his first start on Sept. 30, in a 34-24 win over Arizona State. He’s since completed 99 of 162 passes for 9 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions, and has started every game in the last month, including Stanford’s big win over Notre Dame to close the regular season. Safe to say the keys have been passed over.
Here are 5 things to know about Costello:
1. He was a top-2 national high school prospect
Coming out of Santa Margarita Catholic (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.), Costello attracted interest from schools across the nation, including Michigan (led by former Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh), and nearby power USC. He chose Stanford instead, curiously citing the move as a “decision that would affect my lifestyle as a whole,” per The Mercury News’ Vytas Mazeika.
“Naturally, here I’m more focused all the time, whether I’m in the classroom for school or in the classroom for football,” Costello explained.
Costello was an all-state selection in 2015 and 2016 (much more significant when considering he earned an honor in the massive, talent-rich state of California), the 2015 Trinity League MVP (a high school conference annually stocked with some of Southern California’s finest prep athletes), a finalist at the Elite 11 camp and was also a U.S. Army All-American.
2. He broke Carson Palmer’s high school passing record
Costello finished with 8,222 career passing yards, besting the former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.
“I actually remember watching him a bunch back in the day, watching his tapes,” Costello said, via Mazeika. “He’s definitely somebody that I just want to follow after.”
Costello also set school records with 62 passing touchdowns and 452 passing yards in a single game. Fun fact: Costello joined Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson as another notable Santa Margarita Catholic alumnus.
3. Costello became the first Cardinal QB since 2015 to throw for 4 TDs in a game
Costello broke a streak that ran from Kevin Hogan’s 4-touchdown game in 2015 (coincidentally also against Notre Dame) when he threw for 4 scores in a big win over the Irish to finish the Cardinal’s regular season. It was his best game in his very young career at Stanford, and one the Cardinal hopes to build off of against USC in the Pac-12 title game.
4. Stanford gives him a lot of on-field power
Costello is young and is spending plenty of time after practice getting the extra reps in. To even qualify to play at a school like Stanford, you have to excel in the classroom. The quarterback — who was a Presidential Honor Roll member in high school — is putting both of those together in just his second year on The Farm.
“Our young quarterback, we put a lot on his shoulders this game,” Cardinal coach David Shaw said, via the South Bend Tribune’s Mike Vorel and Tyler James. “Ninety percent of the plays we ran tonight were on his shoulders. We called three plays in the huddle. At the line of scrimmage, had to pick the right play, step up in the pocket, make successful big-time throws. He did that tonight.”
Calling three plays and asking a quarterback to make the right read and corresponding decision before even executing the play is a lot to ask. It’s an avalanche of information and quite a load to shoulder for a sophomore quarterback with less than a season of experience under his belt. But Costello thrived while doing it against Notre Dame, throwing for those aforementioned 4 touchdowns on 14-of-22 passing for 176 yards against Notre Dame.
“He’ll sit here and tell you he should have had five touchdown passes,” Shaw said of Costello after the game. “For a young quarterback in this kind of environment, some of those — the pocket wasn’t perfect. These guys are good. They’re good pass-rushers. They edged a couple times. He got hit a couple times.”
5. His full name is Kevin Richard Costello
His parents’ names are Kevin and Annette. Without diving too far into this, we can probably safely assume K.J. was borne out of “Kevin Jr.” It’s not as exciting as Melvin Upton — formerly known as B.J. — and his name’s origin, which was an acronym short for “Bossman Junior,” but it’s something.
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