Ronnie Stanley’s been hitting the books almost as much as he’s been hitting the blocking sled this spring.
That’s because the Notre Dame left tackle and projected Top 10 selection—depending on which mock draft you subscribe to—made a rather unorthodox decision to stick around campus in order to finish up his degree. Most future first round picks peace out of school the second football season comes to an end, but Stanley promised his mom he would get his degree so he’s been juggling the academic demands of one of the nation’s top institutions with the demands of transforming into a NFL player.
Now with Thursday’s draft finally in sight, and the stretch run of his final semester on the horizon, Stanley took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his decision to stick it out in South Bend, his innovative endorsement deal with Zappos, and the unusual question one team asked him at the NFL Combine, among other things.
(This interview has been edited and condensed.)
I can’t imagine there are many other first round picks doing what you’re doing, or have done what you’re doing, which is staying on campus to finish your degree while others normally leave school to train for the draft. Why did you choose this untraditional route?
I always promised my mom I would get my degree. Coming back for another year, it would give me an opportunity to get that out of the way and still move on to the next chapter.
How tough of a decision was it to not leave campus after the season ended?
It was. But before the combine I set my schedule up for this semester so I only had half semester classes. So before the combine I was able to go where I wanted to train before the combine. But it’s been kind of tough being here, going to class, having to do homework. It’s kind of hard to take that serious when you’re in the final stretch.
Give me an idea of the balance and the schedule you’re dealing with.
Two classes Monday, Wednesday; one class Tuesday, Thursday and kind of just workout around the times of the my classes. Try to find some guys to workout with. Some of the guys stayed back as well so I’ve got some guys to workout with. It’s always nice to workout with your teammates.
Are you getting any help from professionals or are you just doing it with your teammates and doing it on your own?
Where I was working out pre-combine (Athletic Gaines in Las Vegas), I had a workout sheet from them and I’ve been doing my workouts off of them.
Were you advised to put your degree off to the side and concentrate on training for the NFL instead?
Honestly, there wasn’t anyone that told me to go that route. I’ve been pretty confident in what I can do. As long as I keep my workout regimen up, nobody saw it as a big deal.
How difficult has it been balancing the coursework with training?
It’s definitely been a little bit harder than I thought, especially with all the traveling. Visiting different teams and what not, I didn’t know how hectic it would be. And just keeping up the schoolwork and homework has been the hardest part.
One team asked me to recite the alphabet and count up each number while you’re reciting, like A1, B2, and so on.
So you’ve visited a number of teams, did any of them make a really strong impression on you?
Honestly, not one team. They all were really good organizations.
Did any team bring up the fact that you’re staying on campus and finishing degree as being a factor that might hurt where you’re drafted?
No, that never came up.
Do you care where you end up in the draft? Are you checking out these mock drafts to get an idea of where you might end up?
No, not really. I think I know more about where I’m going to end up more than these mock drafts just by the process I’ve had with the coaches. In my head, I know more than any mock draft can tell me.
But do you ever just read them for the fun of it?
No, not really. I don’t really get caught up in that. Some people tell me “they have you going here” or “they have you going there.” All these trades happening and stuff. Nobody knows.
Have you read any scouting reports on yourself?
I get my information from the sources. That’s the best information you can get. Not from someone’s scouting report online but actual coaches who coach the game and know what they’re talking about about the fundamentals of the game.
How tempting was it to leave school last year?
Oh, it was so tempting. I was ready, I was ready to go pretty much. School really wasn’t my thing, I was ready to move on in my head.
What drew you back?
I would say the team that I’d be leaving. The talent we had this year. We had the talent to win a national championship and I really wanted to be a part of it.
No regrets coming back to school?
What was your NFL Combine experience like?
It was hard, but I kind of already knew what I was getting myself into. I talked to a lot of players from my school over the past years who have been in it, They told me exactly what to expect. Coming in I knew it was going to be a tough four days. It was. Really, really tough. You don’t get much sleep, you do a lot of moving all day.
Did teams ask you any weird questions during the combine?
One team asked me to recite the alphabet and count up each number while you’re reciting, like A1, B2, and so on. They try to keep you on your toes and see if you’re as focused as you say you are.
You signed a unique deal with Zappos that will allow you wear whatever apparel and, specifically on the football field, whatever cleats you choose. Basically, it’s the first of its kind. When the norm is to sign with a Nike, Under Armour, or adidas, why was this deal so appealing to you?
I’m very excited for this deal to be the first of its kind. It kind of represents the kind of person I am; I’m very entrepreneurial and business-like. I like to think out of the box and not be traditional. I’m just very excited for this partnership.
How are you going to choose what you wear for your first NFL game?
Whichever feel more comfortable and whichever I play the best in. But it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a comfortable pair.
I’m going to throw out quick hitters. Just give me a one word answer for each:
Favorite NFL team growing up?
Favorite NFL player growing up?
Should college athletes be paid?
What song do they play after Roger Goodell announces your name?
First big purchase after you sign that contract?
Apartment, condo, or a house.