Stanford 's Stepfan Taylor (33) celebrates after a 27-24 win over… (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated…)
Stanford had a no-show for the Rose Bowl's media day Saturday.
Running back Stepfan Taylor was there. But his alter ego, that hip personality that allows him explore a different side of life, was a no-show.
Maybe it was the less-than-scintillating Rose Bowl matchup between a five-loss Wisconsin team and Stanford, or maybe it was Kulabafi's magnetic personality, but the first six questions for Taylor were about the guy who wears the leopard-print sweater and dark sunglasses.
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"He's in the hotel suite sleeping right now," Taylor said.
Yet, Taylor promised, "he'll be around."
Kulabafi, appropriately, did appear when the team went to the Improv Comedy Club on Friday night. Before the show, Kulabafi and running back Anthony Wilkerson performed "I go to Stanford, Brodie," the team's unofficial song, written by Taylor. (Brodie being slang for "buddy" or "brother," not a reference to former Stanford and NFL quarterback John Brodie).
Taylor's shtick emerged last season and it was the hot topic Saturday.
Asked about the origin, Taylor said, "Anthony Wilkerson and I were just freestyling. He was rhyming with me and I came up with the 'Kulabafi' line. I looked at Anthony and started smiling. He was like, 'No, that's not going to work.' I said, 'You start calling me Kulabafi.' "
Quarterback Andrew Luck jumped in as the first to use Taylor's new name.
"It stuck from there," Taylor said. "Right now, it's just blowing up."
In fact, Kulabafi may even surpass Taylor's fame as a running back, an impressive accomplishment given that Taylor is Stanford's all-time leading rusher with 4,212 yards.
Taylor has made videos as Kulabafi, including one in which Taylor has a frustrating interview with the character. "They are all improvs," Taylor said.
He has also filed a copy right on the name; can T-shirts be far off?
"It's starting to catch on a lot," Taylor said. "Everyone is calling me Kulabafi. So it stuck with me now."
At times, it does seem a bit confusing to the senior running back. Taylor uses the third person to talk about both his personalities.
"Kulabafi is definitely more out outgoing, having a lot of fun," Taylor said. "Stepfan is more calm and collected."
Having a ball
Stanford has had the perfect person to play Wisconsin running back Monte Ball in practice: freshman Barry Sanders Jr.
Ball, who won the Doak Walker Award, was impressed that Sanders, the son of the former Detroit Lion and Heisman Trophy winner, was on the scene.
"Barry Sanders' kid is here, really?' Ball said. "Really? Really? Seriously? Wow."
Ball tied Sanders' NCAA single-season record with 39 touchdowns last season. He has also set the NCAA record for career touchdowns with 82.
Ball said he would tweet the elder Sanders.
"He tweeted me, I think, when I broke the record," Ball said.
Stanford's using of Sanders as Ball was less about the connection. Ball has 1,730 yards rushing this season.
"When he gets a head of steam going, it's hard to bring him down," Stanford Coach David Shaw said.
The unique edge Stanford has comes from the Cardinal's tight ends, particularly Zach Ertz.
Ertz has team highs in receptions with 66 and receiving yards with 837. The Cardinal's other tight end, Levine Toilolo, has 24 catches for 393 yards., The two have 10 of Stanford's 19 touchdown receptions.
Ertz is 6 feet 6 and Toilolo is 6-8.
"They have basketball backgrounds," Shaw said. "The correlation of playing basketball is legitimate. It's the footwork, the running ability, the athleticism out in space."
And, Shaw said, "they are too big for safeties."