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Tyler Gaffney leaving baseball, returning to Stanford football

After a year in the Pittsburgh Pirates' farm system, Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney will return to the Cardinal to finish his degree. He could play a big role for the Cardinal as they look to replace Stepfan Taylor.

Ezra Shaw

After a foray into minor league baseball, running back Tyler Gaffney will once again suit up for Stanford football, as the school announced he would get his degree and play a senior year with the Cardinal.

Gaffney had been a productive running back for Stanford back in 2011, gaining 449 yards at 6.1 yards per carry, including a 117-yard game against Washington. However, it seemed as if his football days were over after the team's loss in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma State: he was drafted in the 24th round of the MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates, and spent 2012 playing outfield for their Single-A affiliate, the State College Spikes. He actually did pretty well there, hitting .297 on the year -- SB Nation's Pirates blog Bucs Dugout had some really nice things to say about him in this minor league wrapup, partially entitled "Tyler Gaffney is Red-Hot".

But Stanford's press release indicates that Gaffney, a double major in sociology and psychology, really wanted to finish his degree. He'll be eligible to return to the team April 1, when he returns to school and the team starts its second round of spring practices.

With Stepfan Taylor graduated and likely headed for the NFL, the Cardinal do have needs at running back. As Stanford blog Rule of Tree speculated, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Gaffney might be able to help in a specific role:

Gaffney's not the first Stanford running back to waver between football and baseball: Toby Gerhart had also thought about a career on the diamond, but the bruiser now with the Minnesota Vikings probably made the right call sticking with football.