Tahoe native Ben Snyder chasing football dream at Stanford University | SierraSun.com

Tahoe native Ben Snyder chasing football dream at Stanford University

Sylas Wright | swright@sierrasun.com

For the past four years Ben Snyder has donned Highlander green while thumping on his opposition.

He's adjusting well to a new color — Cardinal red.

Incline's 6-foot-4-inch, 240-pound All-State tight end has taken his game to the next level — or, more accurately, a whole handful of levels. For the past two and a half weeks Snyder has been banging shoulder pads with top-tier Division I talent as an invited walk-on at Stanford University.

"He's learning a lot right now. He's trying to digest a lot of information and kind of catch up to where some of the older guys are," said Morgan Turner, tight ends coach at Stanford, where Snyder's father Jack played from 1979-'83. "He knows football, and he's picking it up really, really well. He's just done a good job with everything so far. It's been fun to see."

That's right. Stanford. The 21st-ranked college team in the nation, according to the Associated Press. From a high school of barely 300 students.

It's been a dream of Snyder's since his adolescence, to follow in his footsteps of his father at one of the most prestigious institutions in the world. Now, after years of hard work on and off the field, that dream is playing out in reality.

Recommended Stories For You

While freshmen football players are not allowed to speak with the media during the preseason, Snyder expressed to his father via text on Tuesday that he was enjoying his time in camp and learning quickly. As suspected, he said, the level of competition is significantly greater than Nevada's Division III, whose players can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that big No. 88 is no longer a factor.

That was hardly the case the past three seasons. Snyder wreaked havoc on the DIII, starting three years on varsity at tight end, defensive end and linebacker. He earned All-League honors all three years while leading the Highlanders with his skills, intelligence and physical presence. He also was a key member of Incline's basketball and baseball teams.

Snyder was voted to the All-State team as a junior and senior, when he tallied 582 yards and seven touchdowns on 37 receptions. Defensively, he led the team with 111 tackles from his linebacker position.

He worked tirelessly throughout his high school career with his father and younger brother Eli, running hills, pumping iron and catching passes on his off time. Jack and Eli teamed up to film Incline's games and created a highlight video to send to numerous Division I colleges. Snyder drew interest from Stanford, Yale, Dartmouth, San Diego State, University of Nevada, Reno, and others.

But his heart was set on Stanford. That hadn't changed since he was 8 years old, when he asked his dad two important questions: "When can I play football?" and "Do you think I could ever play Division I college football?"

Snyder recounted the conversation in a writing assignment his senior year:

"He told me that I could play football once I was in high school because he didn't want me to get injured, which could affect my bone growth, and also that 'Nobody is recruited out of Pop Warner.' As for college football, he told me that I would have to work extremely hard both in school and on the field. I would have to be the best student I could possibly be while challenging myself in the classroom and rounding myself with extracurricular activities."

The advice motivated the young Snyder, who adopted the following motto: "Once you have given all you can, you are only halfway there."

Snyder went on to learn the saxophone and become fluent in Spanish. He served as student body president his senior year and graduated a Distinguished Scholar with a 5.21 GPA, which ranked third in his class.

"Ben is the epitome of the student-athlete," Jeff Clouthier, Incline's head baseball coach and assistant football coach, wrote in a letter of recommendation.

Snyder's efforts earned him scholarships from the Parasol Foundation, National Honor Society and the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe.

He landed on Stanford football's radar after attending a summer camp before his senior season. It was there that he made an impression on Turner, the tight ends coach, and Stanford head coach David Shaw. Although the Cardinal was not offering a scholarship at tight end, the staff invited Snyder to camp if he passed admissions.

"I got to know that he's a good player with some good potential and that we liked him enough. And he seemed like a great kid just talking to him," Turner said. "He's got great size right now, and he's going to get in our weight room and really kind of transform his body. He's at a great weight and he'll probably stay at that weight; it will just look a little different on him."

When asked about Stanford's plans for Snyder — whether he'll redshirt his freshman year or travel with the team — Turner said, "It's too early to tell that right now. We have not sat down and talked about any positions right now.

"We're hoping he can. That's why we wanted him to be here. It's still early right now, but we have high hopes that he can do that, and we'll see how it goes."

Turner added that Snyder has gotten a lot of reps with the second- and third-string quarterbacks and has worked closely with Stanford's already established tight ends. The first week of camp, Snyder told his father that he made an outstretched catch on a post route with a defensive back on his hip. He snatched the ball out of the air and popped to his feet to the sound of a fired-up ovation from his tight end teammates.

It was an experience he hopes to duplicate, but in front of 50,000-plus fans packed into Stanford Stadium.

Ben Snyder Scholarship Fund

Snyder has a scholarship fund set up to help offset the costs of tuition at Stanford University, where he is an invited walk-on to the football program. The fund is available through Bank of the West, account No. 037553404. Call 530-546-8577 for more information.