But there is one worry with Stafford. He might not qualify academically. If that happens, he'll likely go to a prep school hoping to regain his eligiblity and then would be free to sign with any team -- including Georgia and Auburn who were in his final three this year -- next February.
However, LaGrange coach Steve Pardue anticipates that Stafford will eventually play for Kentucky. "If one of my guys signs, that's where he should go. We've never had a problem with a player signing with one school and then not going there. I can't guarantee or say there will not be a first time for that, but you don't read where our guys commit and then de-commit. I stress to them that you do not have a lot in this word other than your word and that your word ought to mean something," Pardue said. When Stafford does arrive at Kentucky either this year or next, Pardue says Kentucky will have a potential star on the roster.
"He has the biggest potential of the three guys from here that signed," Pardue said. "If I told you he was a two-year veteran in the NFL, you would believe it. He has a real mature body. He can run. He's strong. He has all the physical tools it takes to be a big-time player."
Pardue still remembers the first time he saw Stafford. The coach was driving in LaGrange when he saw a player he thought looked 20 years old. Instead, Stafford was only an eighth-grader. "I remember when he got to high school that a lot of people thought he had to be too old to be eligible for four years because he already looked 20," Pardue said. "Actually, by Georgia rules, he's young enough he could play another year of high school football. But he looks so old and mature.
"When he was a sophomore, he had already had schools ready to offer him. He was 6-3, 217 and could run. Now he's a lot bigger, and he can still run the same way. If he doesn't want to be blocked, he won't be blocked. He's that good." Woodyard could probably vouch for that. Pardue laughs when he recalls an encounter Stafford and Woodyard had on the field when Stafford was a freshman.
"He stunned old Wes one day in practice. Wes was blocking him, or trying to block him, and he kind of buckled Wes a little bit," Pardue said. "He's a very laid back kid. He's always respectful, but laid back. But put him on that football field and he loves contact. He'll stand out with the way he plays."