IOWA CITY — You see a quarterback perform at the level Nate Stanley has in big games for the Hawkeyes this year and you wonder how that happened.
You automatically assume his life has been football 24/7, 365. You’re certain a quarterback coach or guru or some sort of shaman was involved. You’re sure Stanley threw more passes in camps and 7-on-7s than he ever did for his Menomonie, Wis., High School team.
Stanley doesn’t come from that planet.
After the Hawkeyes’ 55-24 victory over No. 13 Ohio State last weekend, he celebrated with cheeseburger soup his mom, Donita, made and brought to his apartment.
“I had some soup,” Stanley said. After five TD passes against Ohio State, maybe the Stanleys can rename it “Touchdown Soup.” By the way, those five TD passes tied a Kinnick Stadium record.
Stanley has been touchdown soup against the Hawkeyes’ ranked opponents this season. In games against Iowa State, Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State, the 6-5, 235-pound sophomore has thrown 12 TDs and no interceptions. His 22 touchdowns to four interceptions is one of the best TD/interception ratios in the country.
“He’s going to be something special,” running back Akrum Wadley said. “We don’t shy away from Stanley. We don’t get down on him. I never try to criticize anyone else at a different position, especially at quarterback. I know how hard it is to be a running back. I’m worried about this guy or this guy blitzing, but he’s worried about everything.
“He’s like a point guard if we were playing basketball. He’s like a floor general. There’s a lot on his plate and I know he’s young, but he’s going to get it together and he has a cannon.”
There might not be a better cultural fit for Iowa football than Stanley. He is the anti-entourage QB.
Stanley learned how to be a QB from his high school coaches, including a volunteer assistant who played quarterback at St. Cloud (Minn.) State. He did a little camping at the Trickey-Wright QB camp, which is based in Wisconsin. And, no, his dad, Jay, wasn’t a stage parent constantly throwing drills at his son in the backyard.
“My dad is a teacher at my high school,” Stanley said. “A lot of times in the mornings, he’d have students come in and ask for extra help. A lot of times, he was with other students.”
That is the life of a physics teacher.
Actually, Stanley’s QB guru was YouTube. Not totally, but kind of.
“What I did most of the time was I just looked up drills on YouTube, something I could do at the field house at my high school in the offseason,” said Stanley, whose 22 TD passes this season is 11th in the nation. “My parents didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so it (a QB coach) wasn’t something we really could afford. I went to some camps and took away drills, really took away as much as I could from those so I could continue by myself and with the other quarterbacks in our (Menomonie) program.”
Remember the part about Stanley being an absolute perfect fit for Iowa football? Head coach Kirk Ferentz likes the part where Stanley went his way and not the way of the QB robot.
“I think he was more interested in playing basketball and baseball than he was getting on recruiting sites, going to all the camps, and for quarterbacks like that it’s so unusual because they’ve got to go to all those camps and see what kind of nice things they can get people to say about them,” Ferentz said. “He doesn’t have it in him. He couldn’t care less. Not that he’s indifferent to it, but he’s not driven by it. He’s just a guy who likes to play, and I think he takes a lot of pride in what he does.”
Basketball? Stanley set the Menomonie scoring record with 1,350 points. Baseball? He was clocked with a 90 mph fastball. Stanley didn’t totally put the football down. He lifted weights and did some 7-on-7s with his Menomonie teammates, but there wasn’t much more to it.
When it came to recruiting, the Stanleys managed it. Nate didn’t want it to be a distraction to his prep team. Stanley kept his Hudl profile (basically, it’s the YouTube for high school football recruits) private. There were no Nike or recruiting service camps.
Stanley camped at Pitt when Paul Chryst was the head coach there. Chryst continued to recruit Stanley when he was hired at Wisconsin, and he recruited him to the very end in 2016. (The Badgers didn’t show Stanley Rose Bowl rings. He never officially visited, choosing instead to stay loyal to his word and Iowa.)
Stanley went to Pitt and got an offer. Then he camped at Iowa and got an offer. No, it probably didn’t hurt Iowa that Donita Stanley is from Wellsburg and Donita and Jay attended Wartburg College in Waverly. That didn’t hurt, but credit Iowa assistant Seth Wallace with building a relationship that is ongoing.
Here’s Wallace talking Stanley on signing day 2016: “He came to our camp and we offered him. We were fortunate he came here, we really were. It was obvious when he got here that this kid was a big-time quarterback. Once we started learning more about him, it became really obvious that we really, really wanted Nate Stanley.”
It wasn’t all balloons and cake when Iowa offered. In fact, Ferentz had to double check that the Stanleys actually knew there was an offer on the table.
“I remember him coming to camp, and we really liked him,” Ferentz said. “I sat down with he and his dad. I guess sometimes I’m too subtle. So they (his assistants) said, ‘Does he know that you offered him?’ I said, ‘Well, I think he does.’
“So then I ran out to the car and said, ‘Oh, by the way, that was an offer,’ OK, just to ... I said, ‘We want you,’ which, to me, that’s what that means. If I say ‘We want you,’ I mean ‘We want you.’ Anyway, I made sure we were clear on that point.”
Stanley didn’t want his recruiting to go “boom.” That’s not him.
“It comes with my personality,” he said.
“Introverted,” he said.
Stanley had ability. He let that do all of the talking.
He holds Menomonie records for passing yards (3,674) and career TD passes (36). His 22 TD passes this season are just five shy of Chuck Long’s Iowa season record of 27 set in 1985. In the fourth quarter this season, Stanley has completed 31 of 51 passes for 461 yards, five TD passes and just one interception. His fourth-quarter passer rating is 165.1.
Stanley is the only Iowa quarterback with two five-TD games in one season (at Iowa State and Ohio State). Stanley and Long are the only Iowa QBs with two games of five TD passes.
“I think I knew I had the physical ability to go out and perform,” Stanley said. “This is something I had to work on a lot all through high school and, up to this point, here, too. God’s blessed me with a lot of ability. I want to take advantage of that. I want to continue to work my best and my hardest to develop those abilities.”
And that’s really it with Stanley. What you see is what you get.
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