"He was always one of the geek kids," his father said.
Northern California has become almost a second home for the Nunes family.
Josh's younger brother, Justin, is a redshirt freshman quarterback on the UC Davis team. The family tries to attend every game for both, although this year will be the first time either has played meaningful minutes.
Nunes threw two passes and completed one for 7 yards for Stanford in 2010. On the third practice of training camp last year, he dropped back to pass and stepped on running back Andrew Stutz's foot, tore a ligament underneath his right big toe, was in a boot through the first five games and had a steel plate that was completely rigid in his shoe when he returned to practice. He never played a down.
Stutz and Nunes just so happened to be stretching partners during the team's first practice at Stanford Stadium on Friday since Nunes won the quarterback competition against strong-armed sophomore Brett Nottingham. Stutz playfully told Nunes: "I got to be careful. You're the starting quarterback now."
Nunes was selected the starter more for the way he runs Stanford's complex offense and protecting the ball than his ability to make throws downfield, which is one of Nottingham's strengths.
In the end, second-year Stanford coach David Shaw said he chose the quarterback who allows him to "sleep well at night."
"Of all the empirical evidence we collected," Shaw said, "Josh was the most consistent."
Nunes knows replacing Luck, the two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up and No. 1 overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts, will not be easy.
He talks about how he's "not Andrew Luck" but good enough to make sure Stanford doesn't slip, how the offense has always been a run-first, balanced approach and confidently saying "I don't think we're holding anything back. The coaches expect us to do everything Andrew could do. Not to be Andrew, but to have the mental capacity that he did is definitely expected of us."
And perhaps why the competition to replace Luck lasted almost eight months.
Shaw informed Nunes, Nottingham and redshirt freshman Kevin Hogan of his decision before last Tuesday morning's practice.
Shaw sent Nunes a text shortly after 6 a.m. to be in his office later that morning — Nunes has been up by 5:45 a.m. each day working out or receiving treatment — and the quarterback nervously "got it like an hour after he sent it to be in his office soon."
Nunes said when Shaw broke the news "it was just great to hear him say it." He sent two quick text messages to his parents before practice.
His father had to fight tears. His mother Debbie, a business analyst with 21 years at Southern California Edison utility, was in the middle of what turned out to be a two-hour meeting with her boss.
When she returned to her desk and learned the news on her phone, she became so overwhelmed that co-workers began asking questions during another colleague's birthday luncheon.
"They thought my boss had done something to upset me," she said. "I had to tell them that they were happy tears."
The well wishes filtered in from teammates past and present, friends back home and former Stanford players. Nunes talked to his parents late that night. Luck's text message to Nunes was "typical Andrew," he said.
He congratulated Nunes and told him, "Now it's time to get to work."
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