Offensive lineman Donell Stanley of Latta, S.C., is proof that big things – really big things – can come from small towns.
Latta (S.C.) OL Donell Stanley is rated as one of the nation's top offensive guards
The 6-4, 327-pound Stanley is considered one of the nation’s top prospects for 2014. He is rated as the nation’s No. 61 prospect overall by 247Sports.com, No. 3 offensive guard prospect and No. 2 overall in South Carolina by 247Sports.com.
Stanley comes from Latta, a town just off Interstate 95 in Dillon County and just south of the North Carolina/South Carolina border. The town has a population of about 1,500, although the school encompasses a larger area. Stanley will about 125 kids in his graduating class next spring.
One famous alum of Latta High School is former North Carolina basketball star and current NBA guard Raymond Felton. He helped lead UNC to the 2005 national championship.
“Our town is not as known for football,” Stanley said. “It is pretty much a basketball and baseball town. I think we’re improving and we are getting our program on the right track.”
Stanley will change that impression of his hometown within the next year. He has offers from many of the top schools in the ACC, SEC and the eastern seaboard.
But, by attending a relatively small school, Stanley has been able to continue playing other sports. He averaged a double-double (13 points and 13 rebounds) in basketball as a sophomore. This past spring, be batted better than .400 as he helped lead Latta to the Class A state championship series as a first baseman and part-time pitcher.
“I think I started playing baseball when I was 7,” said Stanley, who truly is a man for all seasons. “It always came easy to me and it was fun. I’ve just kept playing my whole life. When I go to college, I want to try out for the baseball team there, actually.
“We went to the state championship and we had tremendous support from our community and our families and the school administration. It was something I won’t forget. It was a nice experience. I hope we can do it again this year.
Stanley has been working hard to improve his agility
“As far as basketball, I took this year off from the varsity team. Hopefully, we’ll have a team to go and compete for the state this year.”
As much fun as those other sports are, though, Stanley knows football will ultimately be his ticket to a college education – and maybe more than that.
“I’ve played football since I was 4,” he said.
On the gridiron, Stanley has repped quite a bit as a left tackle. Some think he may be better suited to play guard at the college level, while others see a potential defensive tackle in the making.
“A lot of coaches say I can play tackle and a lot of them say I can play guard,” Stanley said. “There are even some saying I could play defense. I’ve played them all so nothing would be new to me. I will just prepare to play wherever they want me to play.”
In terms of playing the offensive line, Stanley has the size and agility college coaches are looking for.
“First, a lot of people tell me I am pretty fast for my size. I work hard on my footwork to get my agility right so I can move better on the field. I have good hands and I am good at pass protection. I can run block and drive block. I play both sides of the ball pretty much the whole game.”
Stanley and his off-season training regimen were featured in this feature recently on a South Carolina television station. He trains both at his school as well as at the Competitive Edge facility in nearby Florence.
Stanley, an avid outdoorsman, was pictured on a horse by a local newspaper prior to last season
“I think I am improving, especially with my feet,” said Stanley, who benches 375 pounds. “I just want to keep them fast. I have also been working hard on my upper body.”
In a unique twist, this football behemoth studies Yoga to provide him with better flexibility and agility.
“I think it has helped with my flexibility,” Stanley said. “After workouts, I can stretch farther than I used to.”
Latta endured a tough 3-7 season in 2012. But Stanley believes better times are ahead for the Vikings.
“We didn’t have the best season,” he said. “But as far as getting better, we have the talent. I think we should have a good chance to win our region and do well in the playoffs.”
Prior to last season, a local newspaper pictured Stanley riding a horse at a local equestrian center. Stanley admitted he enjoys various outdoor hobbies. He’s been known to wear cowboy hats and boots to schools and is president of his school’s chapter of the Future Farmers of America.
(Those boots have to be size 22, by the way. Stanley gets his football cleats on special order through the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.)
“I think people thought photo with me on the horse was amusing,” he said. “I like to hunt and fish. I even play a little tennis to stay in shape. I like to help around our community. I like to work at the recreational parks here.”
Building The Suspense
Stanley has already accepted an invitation to play in the Under Armour All-American Game this coming January in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“Looking back at the players in the past who have played there like (Jadaveon) Clowney and everybody else, that’s a good way to represent my hometown, my community, South Carolina and my family,” Stanley said.
During the course of that game, Stanley said he plans to announce his college choice on national television.
Asked what he is looking for in a school, Stanley said, “I want to see how good the academic program is first. Then, I want to be where there is a good winter (conditioning) program. I want to work with good, experienced coaches. I want to be at a good school where we can win a (national) title and they can help me get to the NFL.”
Six schools have been routinely mentioned by Stanley. They are Clemson, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, LSU and Ohio State. The first four may have a slight edge over the last two. (All 13 predictions in the 247Sports.com Crystal Ball for Stanley have him ticketed for South Carolina.)
Stanley was asked about the pressure to attend one of the two instate schools.
“They’re both good schools,” Stanley said of Clemson and South Carolina. “People have been talking to me here about going to either of those schools. But my friends and people here say they will support me wherever I go. It’s been nice meeting all the coaches and getting to go to different programs.”
He shared comments on several of his top schools, including:
* On North Carolina: “They have Coach Fedora there. With the people he is bringing in, I think that would be a good school to go to. I’ve been a Tar Heels fan pretty much my whole life. I don’t think that will play into anything that big recruiting-wise.”
* On Alabama: “You think of Alabama and you think of national championships. Nick Saban gets more guys into the NFL right now than anybody else. That’s a good ticket there.”
* On Ohio State and LSU: “I have not gotten to those schools yet. But I know about Coach Meyer’s staff and what they can do. They can win there and put you in the NFL. I want to try and get to Ohio State and LSU if I can.”
Wherever he ends up, Stanley will take his smalltown upbringing with him to a big-time college football program.
“I think this shows that no matter where you play at, you can still be up there and have top schools looking at you,” he said. “You just have to put in the work.”
Click here for video of Stanley in action.
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