Menomonie's Stanley wasn't on Gophers' radar, but he's starting for Hawkeyes
MINNEAPOLIS—Nate Stanley didn't treat the recruiting process like a contest.
The Menomonie, Wis., native declined to attend regional quarterback camps to see how he measured up against others in the 2016 class. He didn't flirt with college coaches to accumulate the most scholarship offers.
Iowa got a jump on recruiting Stanley as a sophomore while Minnesota, a school 70 miles to the west of his hometown, remained mostly on the sidelines during the process.
"He was just more interested in playing baseball and basketball and football at his school, and focused where he was at and where he was living, and didn't get caught up in all that stuff," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday.
Stanley will be the Hawkeyes' starting quarterback when the Gophers battle for Floyd of Rosedale at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Kinnick Stadium. The sophomore first-year starter has completed 57 percent of his passes with 16 touchdowns and three interceptions in seven games.
"He's made some big throws," Gophers defensive coordinator Robb Smith said. "I think he does a really nice job, especially on third down, taking some shots, throwing some deep balls. That is where a lot of their big plays show up."
Stanley's family has ties to Iowa, but he didn't grow up a fan of any particular program. Mother Donita is from Wellsburg in central Iowa; father Jay is from Rock Falls in northwest Illinois. Iowa City is roughly in the middle.
"I think that had something to do with Nate deciding to go to Iowa," said his father, a longtime coach and now offensive line assistant at Menomonie.
Donita and Jay met at Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa. Nate was born in Rochester, Minn., and spent most of his childhood in Menomonie.
"He has been on a football field since he was 4 years old," Jay said. "It was fun to watch him drag a big blocking dummy around as a young manager."
As Stanley grew, his parents made the teams he was on the first priority. Committing early to Iowa relieved any possible distraction his recruiting might have caused. Each summer, Menomonie sends a squad to the Gophers' seven-on-seven passing tournaments, but the previous staff showed little interest in Stanley.
"It was weird," said Joe La Buda, Menomonie's head coach. "He was (an hour) down the road and you had Stanford in on him and Michigan State, schools from a long ways away."
Jay Stanley said his 6-foot-5, 230-pound son is a pro-style quarterback and former Gophers coaches Jerry Kill and Tracy Claeys wanted more of a dual-threat QB, which he believes contributed to them passing on Nate.
New Gophers defensive line coach Bryce Paup has already visited Menomonie.
"I'm sure if the staff that is there now was there then, it probably would have been a different story as far as showing interest and stuff," La Buda said.
Former Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen and Stanley didn't mesh, La Buda said. Current Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst recruited Stanley when he was the head coach at Pittsburgh, and when the Badgers hired Chryst in December 2014, he carried forward his interest in Stanley.
"(Chryst) went full barrel after him," La Buda said. "Nate is one of those kids that has super high moral standards, great Christian kid, and he looked it as, 'I gave my word (to Iowa) and I'm not going back on it.' "
Ferentz has appreciated Stanley's resolve in stepping in for C.J. Beathard, now with the San Francisco 49ers, and handling the heightened scrutiny that comes with the position.
"The thing that I've been most impressed with, I think all of us have, is just his ability to keep playing," Ferentz said. "If something bad does happen, he doesn't fall apart. He doesn't get flustered. He just keeps playing. We really think he is on a good path."
Stanley's journey could include three matchups against the Gophers through 2019.