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May 21, 2012The Stanford football universe was a different place when Dallas Lloyd left on his LDS mission to Chile in the summer of 2010.
The Cardinal was coming off an 8-5 season, and the college football world was wondering how Stanford would cope with the loss of Heisman Trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart. At the time, Jim Harbaugh was still the head coach, Vic Fangio was a relative unknown entity (at least to Stanford fans), and Andrew Luck wasn't yet Andrew Luck.
Then again, Lloyd wasn't the same person, either. His 18-month mission in South America made a profound impact on Lloyd and the way he views life.
"It was great," Lloyd said. "It was the best experience of my life."
"I wish I could express how I really feel and I wish I could tell you everything that I learned but I can't," Lloyd said. "But just to kind of sum it up, I would say that when I was serving other people and when I'm putting other people first is when I'm happiest. I mean I was 18 when I left, so an 18-year-old kid, it's really hard for an 18-year-old kid to learn that type of lesson and I think it took for me moving to South America and doing all these kinds of things to actually learn that lesson."
But when Lloyd arrived in Chile, he had trouble acclimating to the new environment.
"I'm not going to lie, it was definitely the most humbling experience of my life because being there, my first month I can't understand anybody," Lloyd said. "I'm not really sure what's going on, like how am I supposed to help this person if I can't even talk to them?
"But once I decided that I should stop thinking about myself and just start thinking about others and what they need, that's when I was really happy and when everything just started to go well for me down there."
And towards the end of his trip, he found it difficult to leave.
"When the time came for me to come home it was really hard to say goodbye to the people because you give them everything you have for two years and now it's time to say goodbye and to move on with your life," Lloyd said.
Although Lloyd's primary focus while in Chile was on his missionary work, he did find some time to stay updated on the happenings in the Stanford football world. Lloyd kept in touch with his former regional recruiter Lance Anderson, as well as David Shaw, and received regular email updates on the team.
"I'm really close to coach Lance Anderson because he was the recruiting coordinator for Utah and also I was close to Coach Shaw before Coach Harbaugh left so I kept in touch with the both of them," Lloyd said. "They knew that I was focused and they didn't want to distract me, but I talked to Coach Anderson and I told him to send me the stats and how we were doing that game and stuff because even though I was in South America I still felt like I was part of the team. I took a football with me, played catch whenever I could. There wasn't a lot of time for that but I did what I could."
Lloyd said that hearing about Stanford's success validated his decision to select the Cardinal.
"Every time I would hear from Stanford I would feel even better and better about the decision I made to be a part of the Stanford football team," Lloyd said. "At first, I'm not going to lie, it made me homesick and it made me want to be on the field, but after a while I just felt at peace with myself and the decision I made."
After a year and a half in South America, Lloyd returned to his home in Utah last month. As was the case in his few first months in Chile, Lloyd had to make an adjustment to a new culture and way of life.
"It was kind of a culture shock at first to come home and just to see how blessed we really are, those of us who live here in the United States," Lloyd said. "It was a beautiful reunion with my family. I'm sure you can imagine not seeing your family for two years, coming home and seeing my little brother who's going to be a senior this year, he had grown so much, and my two little sisters."
Lloyd hasn't wasted any time getting back into football since returning. He works out with a trainer six days a week, and is throwing 3-4 days a week with plans to see a QB coach. Although Stanford isn't allowed to give him a copy of the Cardinal playbook before he enrolls, Lloyd has attempted to re-familiarize himself with the mental side of the game as well.
"I know that's probably going to be the biggest challenge," Lloyd said.
"I've getting online and just watching some of the plays and starting to pick up on the terminology a little bit, but it's hard when you don't have a coach with you to walk you through it, I've been doing all I can to put myself in the best position."
Stanford is well aware of the challenges that will Lloyd will face with upon his arrival in Palo Alto. Lance Anderson said the Cardinal will adjust accordingly.
"I think especially the first year we're going to be pretty patient with him," Anderson said. "I think it will be good for him to get here during the summer, really go through the offseason conditioning program with Coach Turley. I know he's home now and he's working out now, which is going to help. In the fall when he finally puts the pads on, gets out there in August, that's going to be the first time in a couple of years he's played football. I think it does take a little bit of time especially at that position, at quarterback, so we're just going to take it one step at a time and we're willing to be patient."
Anderson has experience making a similar transition. Before beginning his playing career at Idaho State in the early 1990's Anderson went on a two-year LDS mission. Anderson said the hardest part of the transition is getting back in shape.
"I think the biggest thing is really getting back in football shape," Anderson said. "A lot of times at that age you're young and you work hard and you try to stay in good shape and you try to keep your strength up, but not playing the game for that long, there's definitely a little bit of an adjustment. So I think that just having been away from the game for that amount of time, just getting used to getting back and playing is the biggest adjustment."
However, while Lloyd's football skills may be somewhat rusty, he's picked up other life skills that could come in handy as he begins college.
"I know that I'm a better man now and I have a better vision for my future and I also know that I'll be a better football player, a better teammate, and I'm just overall better thanks to the experience that I had down there," Lloyd said.
When Lloyd enrolls at Stanford next month, he'll be the 23rd member of the Cardinal's heralded 2012 recruiting class that was ranked No. 5 in the nation (not counting Lloyd but including Lloyd's former teammate Brandon Fanaika, who will likely go on a mission trip prior to the start of his college career.)
Lloyd is excited about the incoming talent that will surround him on The Farm, even if Stanford's highly rated offensive line class means he won't have to do as much scrambling as he's accustomed.
"I'm looking forward to still using my legs and being a dual-threat quarterback," Lloyd said. "But maybe I won't have to scramble as much as I thought, but that's a good thing, right?"
But even with good protection, it's likely that Lloyd's speed will come in handy. According to Anderson, Lloyd's athleticism is one of his best attributes on the field.
"In high school we were really impressed with how athletic he was, how competitive, what a playmaker he was," Anderson said. "He didn't always play behind the greatest offensive line and didn't always have a lot of time to stand back there and throw a lot of times. He was scrambling around and making plays, and that's what we were so impressed with. And then when he came to camp a few years ago we were impressed with his quarterback skills, with his arm strength, things like that. So we think we're getting a really athletic kid that has a lot of versatility."