“Coach Tomlin told me that I have to run north and south,” said Stingily, a 6-1, 235-pound bruiser out of Northern Illinois. “If I start running east and west, he said I might as well keep running all the way home.”
Stingily knows plenty about running north and south. He made that his calling card at Northern Illinois the past two seasons when he was one of the most dangerous runners in the Mid-American Conference, rushing for 1,119 yards and nine touchdowns as a junior and 971 yards and 14 scores as a senior.
More impressive was his average per carry in both seasons. Stingily averaged 5.5 yards as a junior and 5.0 as a senior, finishing his career with 2,095 yards and 23 scores on just 397 career carries.
All but one carry came in his final two seasons as he had taken a backseat to talented multi-purpose quarterback Jordan Lynch as the focal point in the Huskies’ offense.
In fact, Stingily’s big chance to shine didn’t come until midway through his junior season when he had a breakout game against Kent State five games into the season.
“One of our other running backs was hurt, so me and my backup (James Spencer) got all the work in that game,” Stingily said. “He scored two touchdowns and I had two touchdowns and over 200 yards.”
It was 266 yards on 37 carries, to be exact, as the Huskies won, 38-24. It was one of just six career games in which Stingily was given more than 20 carries in his career as Northern Illinois relied on Lynch and then quarterback Drew Hare to run the ball as much as their running backs.
His breakout game against Kent State gave Stingily an opportunity to see something other than how he would fare as a feature back.
“That was the first time I saw what real speed looked like,” he said.
That speed came in the form of current Steelers running back Dri Archer, who had just four carries in the game but caught four passes for 80 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown catch and run. Archer also returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score.
But while the Steelers selected the speedy Archer in the third round of last year’s draft, Stingily went undrafted this spring.
“I was upset about it at first, but it landed me here,” Stingily said. “I said if I went undrafted, I wanted to be a priority free agent somewhere and the Steelers were the first team to call me.”
What kept him from being drafted?
“Probably my 40 time,” said Stingily, who ran a pedestrian 4.85 at 240 pounds at his pro day. Hence, Tomlin’s pronouncement that he must focus on straight-line running.
Stingily’s OK with that. He knows he’s not going to become the next Le’Veon Bell, the Steelers’ star who played at close to 250 pounds in college but has dropped nearly 30 pounds and become one of the NFL’s top all-around backs.
“Man, Le’Veon’s cut up,” Stingily said. “He told me he got here around 240 and is now at like 220. But they’ve told me they want me to stay right where I am.”
Stingily would have no problem with that, either.
“It doesn’t matter how you get here, just that you get here,” he said. “I just want a shot.”
(Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter)