Stanley, a Buck linebacker with the Steelers by way of Michigan State, not only returned an interception 50 yards for a score, he returned a fumble 38 yards for another, both within five snaps. And it wasn't even his college highlight.
"Just being out there every Saturday," said Stanley. "I got the opportunity to start as a freshman. I'd say that was the biggest thing for me. That had to be the highlight."
Every Saturday during his last semester at Saginaw High, Stanley drove to Michigan State's campus to watch spring drills, attend film study and sit in on team meetings. He took detailed notes, and used them to start 10 games at weak-side linebacker the following fall.
Of 48 possible starts, Stanley made 45 in four years at MSU. He finished with 368 tackles and ranks sixth on the school's all-time list.
The big plays, though, were lacking. He had only six sacks, eight forced fumbles and a recovery. He's more workmanlike than flashy, and that may explain why he impresses coaches but not scouts.
"When I was coming out of high school, I told myself that no matter what happens I'm coming to Michigan State and working as hard as I can work and contribute to the team," Stanley said. "I got the chance to start and did a good job. I bring the same attitude here. I wasn't drafted but that even makes it better. It makes me work harder. I got my opportunity and now I'm trying to make the best of it."
When MSU Coach John L. Smith first saw Stanley, he moved the junior to middle linebacker and named him captain. Last year, he called Stanley "without a doubt our best football player." Smith also told the school's website: "He's got no regard other than for his teammates. He's going to be a success."
"I can't even put into words what a great person he's grown up to be," said Stanley's father, Ronald, a pastor who, with his son, started the Stanley Foundation for fire victims.
Stanley came out of Saginaw as an unheralded prospect. He was a junior on the state's big-school championship team that featured Charles Rogers (Lions).
At Saginaw, Stanley also played with Roy Manning (Packers camp), LaMarr Woodley (freshman DE starter at Michigan), Jerome Jackson (sophomore TB co-starter at Michigan), Manquiz Wedlow (former LB starter at MSU) and Jeremiah McLaurin (former CB reserve at MSU).
Purdue was Stanley's preference, but the Boilermakers stopped recruiting him once they reached their quota at linebacker. So he went to MSU and not only made quick impressions on two coaching staffs, he made lasting ones.
"The main thing was I was consistent," said Stanley in a foreshadowing of Bill Cowher's summer-break speech to the Steelers.
Stanley will get a good look from the Steelers. He may be a fraction short in stature, but he weighs 244 pounds and ran a 4.53 40 for the Chicago Bears. He's playing behind James Farrior and Clint Kriewaldt, but has no doubt he'll make the team.
Scouts knock his change-of-direction skills, lower-body strength, hand usage and ability to cover deep. They like his instincts, hard hitting, versatility and short-coverage skills.
"They can say what they want to say but I know what I can do on the field," Stanley said.
"Coaches see film and they know I'm a player, else I wouldn't be here. So I don't care about what people write or say or what type of numbers I have. Once I step on the field it's about football, and that's what I do. I play football."
Snapshot: Ron Stanley
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