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Whether it is on the football field or off it, Donell Stanley is going to stand out.
That is easy to do when you are 6-foot-5, 340 pounds and one of the most sought-after recruits in South Carolina. Stanley might be the biggest person in Latta, which has a population of 1,365.
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“He commands attention just by showing up,” said Chris German, Stanley’s uncle. “We were in IGA supermarket the other day and he had kids coming up to him and asking him, ‘Aren’t you the one who plays football and baseball at Latta? We watch you play and want to be like you when we grow up.’ ”
Stanley will announce his college choice (USC or Clemson) at Latta High on Friday.
German said those kind of meetings at a supermarket are commonplace whenever Stanley is out and about. Children regularly come up to him, wanting a picture with him or in Stanley’s size 23 shoes, which he has sent to him by the Carolina Panthers.
Stanley, who lives just outside of Latta in the community of Floydale, has embraced the spotlight that has been on him and his school the past two seasons. The three-sport player always makes time for others, answering questions and taking photos.
This past summer, Stanley and teammate R.J. McClam spent time speaking to children, who were part of a summer program in town.
“I was in this situation when I was younger and older guys took time with me, so kids are going to remember that,” Stanley said. “Pretty tough with recruiting and school. It is tiring but I wouldn’t trade it for anything and I thank God for the opportunity.”
Stanley has brought attention to the football program the past three seasons despite the lack of wins on the field. Latta hasn’t had a winning season or made the playoffs in Stanley’s career, something that could change this season.
The Vikings returned 17 starters and Latta has a 4-2 record (1-0 in the region) this season. They are looking for their first postseason appearance since 2003. Latta’s last winning season came in 2002 when it went 9-3 and made it to the second round of the playoffs.
“This is the year I want the program to stand out,” said Stanley, who was a member of the Vikings’ state runner-up baseball team. “All I want to do is help turn this thing around, and for us to make the playoffs.”
Stanley has been on the recruiting landscape since he turned heads three years ago at a football camp at Clemson, where Latta coach Kelly Williamson said his physical tools stood out. The Tigers offered Stanley shortly after that and more offers followed.
Williamson said about 50 colleges sent recruiters to the school in the past three seasons to see Stanley, among the top-ranked prospects in the state according to Rivals.com. The third-year coach said Stanley’s footwork and ability to play multiple positions are what separates him on the football field.
Stanley, who squats 525 pounds and benches about 360, plays both guard and tackle on offense and also is a starter on the defensive line. The two-way player had 82 tackles and 9 1/2 sacks last season.
“His hips and legs are just awesome,” Williamson said. “His angles are good. The sky is the limit. He can play anywhere he wants.”
Stanley narrowed his college choices to Alabama, Clemson, North Carolina and South Carolina — and then to USC and Clemson. He originally planned to announce his decision during the Under Armour All-American game in January.
Stanley is never alone on his recruiting trips nor at the various camps he has been to in the past two years. German usually is the one driving his nephew, but Stanley brings a teammate or two for the ride to give them a glimpse in the recruiting process.
Stanley’s mother also attended USC’s Black Magic camp, designed for top recruits in the state, with him over the summer and he said the Gamecocks are his mom’s top choice.
“Best thing about all this is getting to take a lot of my teammates and a lot of my family along,” Stanley said. “I want them to get to experience everything and want them to enjoy it, too. I wouldn’t be here right now without my teammates and family.”
McClam accompanied Stanley on some of the trips, including camps at Alabama and Clemson. The senior, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season, said Stanley’s high profile stature has benefited him and other members on the team.
McClam has offers from Campbell and Charleston Southern.
“He knows how to get his teammates involved and how to make us better. He gives us a chance to get looks from other colleges,” McClam said.
Neither German nor Williamson are surprised about Stanley’s caring nature and the way he has handled the recruiting process. They both say that will bode well for him in the future, no matter where he decides to play college football.
“He has always been a giving person,” German said. “Even though the attention has been on him, he likes to divert it to someone else. Whenever he gets to go somewhere, he wants to bring them along to a football game and experience it. They get to go to the locker room with him and talk to players and coaches he meets.”
“He has been everything to our program. We are excited for him and how he has represented the school, himself and the program,” Williamson said. “There is life after football and he is going to be successful after football because of his character. There are a lot of players walking around that have his size but not too many have the character that he has.”