The 102nd Rose Bowl brought two high performing football teams to Pasadena. Both the Stanford Cardinal and the Iowa Hawkeyes were given a chance to avenge the losses they endured in their last Rose Bowl appearances.
For Iowa, it came in 1991 when the Washington Huskies defeated them 34-46. Stanford lost in 2014 when the Michigan State Spartans won 24-20.
This year, players from both teams brought unique storylines and connections to the football game known as “the Grandaddy of Them All.”
Senior strong safety Kodi Whitfield considered the Rose Bowl as a homecoming. This was Whitfield’s third Rose Bowl, his first was in 2013 when the Cardinal faced the Wisconsin Badgers.
“That was a surreal experience honestly, to be a freshmen and play in Pasadena in the Rose Bowl,” said Whitfield, a native of Los Angeles and alumni of Loyola High School.
Whitfield’s father, Bob, also played football for Stanford as an offensive lineman; he played in the NFL for 15 years, ESPN reports. Whitfield made 3 overall tackles on New Year’s Day. During this season, Whitfield started in all 14 games, landed 20 solo tackles, and 53 overall tackles, according to Stanford Athletics.
“Just to have been here three times and to have it all culminate to where we’re clicking. The offense was playing great, the defense played well and special teams even scoring a touchdown,” said Whitfield. “To play our complete game was great timing.”
Junior wide receiver Francis Owusu followed the example of his brother, Chris, who played for the Cardinal from 2008-2011 and currently plays for the New York Jets. He has other siblings that play sports at prominent universities as well.
“My brother, Chris, went to Stanford and Brian just graduated from Harvard, my sister, Columbia.” Owusu said. “It’s just three siblings that I really look up to.”
The previous two trips to the Rose Bowl delivered wisdom to the upperclassmen Stanford players. The Cardinal defeated the Badgers in 2013 and returned to the Rose Bowl in 2014 to lose.
“The difference between the mindsets and after the game when you’re holding the trophy, the Rose Bowl trophy on stage with the Rose Bowl committee and the people with the tournament of Roses or walking back in the locker room when you lost,” said senior offensive guard Joshua Garnett. “That definitely keeps you focused.”
Garnett had his first career start during his freshmen year in 2012. As a sophomore, Garnett was a member of one of the nation’s top offensive lines. He started at every game this season. Garnett inherited football from his father, Scott, who played for the University of Washington.
“He won a Rose Bowl, he had to play Iowa in the Rose Bowl,” said Garnett. “I feel growing up and hearing my father talking about his experience with the Rose Bowl, him talking about going to Disneyland and going to Lawry’s Beef Bowl and just how exciting the atmosphere was.”
Iowa junior running back LeShun Daniels Jr. also has a father who played in the Rose Bowl.
“My dad played in the Rose Bowl back in 1997 with Ohio State when they played Arizona State,” said Daniels.
The Cardinal went on to defeat the Hawkeyes 45-16, allowing Southern California natives like Owusu and Whitfield to make history in their own backyards.
“It felt like home, it felt like we’ve been here before,” said Whitfield. “This time, we had a mission and we weren’t gonna stop until completed that mission which was winning the game.”