The bench press started like every other one Josh Nunes had done throughout his Stanford career.
As he lifted the weight above his chest, the former starting quarterback thought he felt his right shoulder pop. The weight crashed down violently on his upper body, and his spotter quickly pulled the bar off.
Remarkably, Nunes gathered himself enough to sit up. He looked down and, for a moment, figured he'd be fine — until he saw a growing gap between his right chest muscle and the bone in his right shoulder.
"It was pretty gnarly," Nunes said.
The incident completely tore off his right chest muscle in February, sidelined him for all of spring practices and led to his decision to officially retire from football Monday, ending a collegiate career filled with dramatic highs and devastating setbacks.
"It's kind of a tough way to go out," Nunes said, disclosing details of his injury for the first time in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "Definitely faced a lot of adversity, both with health and football. Obstacles are a part of life and definitely meant to be overcome."
Nunes said the complete tear of his pectoralis major tendon occurred while he lifted, and the weight that dropped down on his chest just strained his muscles and left bruises. The injury happened on Feb. 14 — Valentine's Day.
"Celebrate your love for football, right?" he quipped.
Team doctors performed surgery about 10 days later, drilling into his bone to reattach the tendon with anchors. He has about a 4-inch scar on his chest and can't start physical therapy until the tendon takes.
Nunes is expected to make a full recovery, which can take up to 12 months following surgery. At this point, he said it's just not worth reviving his football career and risking an even more serious injury.
"I'm going to need my right hand the rest of my life," he said.
Nunes is determined not to let the painful end to his Stanford football career be his lasting legacy.
The two-sport star at Upland High School in Southern California, where he also was a pitcher, has finished the work for his bachelor's degree in management science and engineering and is graduating this spring. He already has been accepted into the master's program at Stanford for social psychology, which he described as focusing on organizational behavior on the business side of the field.
Nunes hopes to go into the start-up world or pursue an entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley. He also is considering working for a nonprofit in that field.
Carving out a new career path will come with far different bumps he has already faced on The Farm.
On the third practice of training camp in 2011, Nunes 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.
Cardinal coach David Shaw credited Nunes for his attitude and work ethic all along.
"I know it sounds cheesy, but Josh is the kid you want your daughter to bring home one day and say, 'This is the guy I'm going to marry,'" Shaw said before Stanford won the Pac-12 title game over UCLA last season. "I can't have a higher praise for what kind of a young man he is."
Last fall, Nunes impressed Shaw enough to beat out Brett Nottingham in an eight-month quarterback competition. But he faced near-impossible expectations last season succeeding record-setting quarterback Andrew Luck, the No. 1 overall draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts last April.
Nunes played spectacularly in the second half to upset then-No. 2 Southern California and rallied the Cardinal from a two-touchdown deficit for a 54-48 overtime win against Arizona, but he struggled for long stretches in close losses at Washington and Notre Dame, with the offense failing to score a touchdown each time.
Kevin Hogan's role increased more each week, starting with wildcat and read-option packages, then moving into the prototypical sets of Stanford's complicated offense. Finally, after Nunes failed to move the offense on the first two possessions at Pac-12 cellar-dweller Colorado, Hogan entered in relief and he never relented — leading the Cardinal's remarkable run to a Rose Bowl victory over Wisconsin.
Nunes completed 52.8 percent of his passes and threw for 1,643 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season. The senior was likely to be Hogan's backup this season. Freshmen Evan Crower and Dallas Lloyd will compete for the No. 2 spot on depth chart.
Nunes will still be around campus but is focused on academics now. He's scheduled to finish his master's next spring, though he to be around the team every so often.
"I'm sure," he said, "I'll need my football fix."