What should you know about Matthew Stafford? Well according to him, “I can dunk.” Stafford’s calm, amiable demeanor on and off the field has played an important part in his rise to the upper echelons of college football. Now that he’s on the verge of becoming, at the very least, a top 10 draft pick, those easy-going manners will be put to the test. Stafford should be able to take it though, because he’s certainly had to adapt before.
Born in Tampa, Florida, Stafford moved to Dunwoody, Georgia while his father completed a graduate degree at none other than Matthew’s own future college: The University of Georgia. But before he ever got there, his father finished school and the whole family moved to Dallas.
Getting uprooted again and bustled into the big city, however, certainly had its advantages.
In an odd stroke of coincidence, Stafford was childhood friends and little league teammates with, Clayton Kershaw, one baseball’s rising star pitchers (currently with the Dodgers). Up until high school, Stafford was pulling a solid Bo Jackson by playing baseball (as a shortstop) and football. Prior to starting his senior year though, Stafford gave up baseball in order to focus on football. Focus for Stafford being something we lesser mortals can only dream of.
During his senior year at Highland Park High, Stafford led the team to its first 15-0 record while compiling more than 4,000 yards passing, 38 touchdowns, and only six interceptions over the course of the season. Naturally, Stafford’s team went on to win the state championship in their division, which was the school’s first title in nearly 50 years. Awards immediately followed: The 2005 Parade Magazine All-America Team, the USA Today Pre-Season Super 25, and the 2005 EA Sports National Player of the Year.
Stafford was definitely on the fast track from there.
Following his senior season, he graduated early and enrolled in his father’s alma mater, the University of Georgia. While not initially the starting quarterback, he was awarded the role before his freshman year was out and struggled a little before finding his rhythm the following season. As a sophomore, anyone who hadn’t been paying attention to the new powerhouse in the SEC woke up and heard the name Stafford. By the end of the year, Stafford had chalked up an average of 194.1 passing yards per game, 19 TDs, and a couple of rushing touchdowns just for good measure.
Stafford’s final year of collegiate sports started with the University of Georgia Bulldogs finding themselves atop both the AP and USA Today polls for the first time in the school’s history. While the Bulldogs were unable to follow through on the consensus prediction, Stafford still had a stellar season, breaking his own records time and again. 2008 saw the star quarterback first throw for a then career-high 275 yards against Georgia Southern University. That performance was soon followed by 310 yards against the Volunteers, 376 against Kentucky, and 408 yards in a losing effort against Georgia Tech. Georgia went on to defeat Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl and Stafford was named the game’s MVP.
Stafford’s stats do nothing to belie the fact that he is one of the great pocket passers in college football. While his ability to scramble has some room for improvement, he possesses reliable speed and can adapt when the play breaks. His long range passing, the cornerstone of his talent, helps make up for his faults as well, sending bullets in for first downs or bombs out to the end zone. Completing around 60 percent of his passers last year tells us of the accuracy of his artillery as well.
After that great last season, sportswriters across the country began making predictions. What do you suppose would happen if Matthew Stafford dropped out and entered the draft? When would he be selected? It’d have to be #1 right? The rumor mill was in full swing. What teams would be interested in a quarterback with good decision-making abilities and a freakishly powerful arm? Rather than finish his degree, upon completion of his junior year Stafford opted to find out. Stafford’s been all over TV lately, getting asked the same questions over and over again, being told barely amusing anecdotes in the 10 minute preamble to the recitation of his own personal FAQ, and trying his best to be excited about whatever team it seems is interested in him at the time without possibly offending the others that might be his new best friend come April.
Whether or not Stafford becomes the next mega-star quarterback in the NFL remains to be see. It could certainly be true. Besides, even if the fickle luck of the NFL changes on him, he made not have a degree to fall back on, but he can still dunk.
Latest on Stafford
The Lions, having the first pick in this year’s draft, are the favorites to get Stafford. He has even publicly stated his favorable opinion of working with the team from the ground up. However, recent comments by Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz indicate a distinct possibility that the Lions will be looking to reconstruct their team from the offensive and defensive lines first, rather than placing all their aspirations on a star quarterback. The scouting combine last week has done nothing to dissuade that opinion either, though nothing is as of yet confirmed.
Matthew Stafford Bio at Georgiadogs.com
Matthew Stafford Bio at Georgiadogs.com has season and career stats.
News and Commentary
’09 NFL Draft: Top 10 QB Prospects
Matthew Stafford named one of the top 10 QB prospects by Sports Illustrated.
Stafford nominated for the award for best quarterback of 2008.
Matthew Stafford named player of the week for 8/31/08.
On becoming a Detroit Lion
“I’d love to be a part of something like that. I’m a competitive guy and love a challenge, and that would definitely be a fun situation for me.”
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