ATHENS — Georgia’s Jayson Stanley is one of those kinds of players coaches love. He may not be a star with the fans or a standout on the stat sheet. He’s just a solid, there-every-day, execute-his-assignment football player.
That’s why what happened to Stanley last December was so out of character for him. He and his passenger/teammate, Natrez Patrick, were pulled over in Barrow County for speeding and subsequently arrested. Stanley was charged with DUI, speeding and possession of less than one ounce of marijuana. Patrick also was arrested on possession charges.
That it happened on the very night that Georgia had won its first SEC Championship Game since 2005 made it all the worse.
But “charges” is a key word in this story. The DUI charges against Stanley were dropped, as were the possession charges against Patrick. In a deal with the Barrow County prosecutor, Stanley agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor possession of marijuana and speeding.
And here’s the ultimate downside for both young men: They missed the College Football Playoffs.
That was the punishment levied on them by Georgia coach Kirby Smart. Regardless of the outcome of the case, neither player was where they should be or doing what they should on a night they’d just been crowned champions.
“It was a learning experience, definitely,” Stanley said Tuesday, speaking about the issue for the first time after the Bulldogs’ practice. “But, I mean, I learned from it and moved on. And I see a very much brighter path.”
Who knows what kind of a difference Stanley or Patrick might’ve made in the playoffs? As it was, Georgia both won and lost in the narrowest of fashions.
But what ifs aren’t something Stanley is willing to spend much time on.
“I kind of looked at it as God blessed me with being able to play in a national championship,” he said. “So I was, like, let’s do it.”
Regardless, there are no ill feelings among Stanley’s teammates, and certainly not from his coach.
Just this past Saturday, Smart was lauding Stanley and fellow wideout Tyler Simmons for the way they’ve been competing at their position while also embracing their roles on special teams.
Smart brought up the two receivers in the midst of answering questions about heralded transfer Demetris Robertson, who just had his eligibility cleared to play this season.
“I’m proud the way Demetris has competed, but there’s guys out there (like) Jayson Stanley and Tyler Simmons,” Smart said after the Bulldogs’ scrimmage this past Saturday. “To me, those two guys, they have worked their tails off. They were dominant special teams players last year. This spring and so far this fall, they’ve really been good wideouts and special team players. So there’s going to be good competition in that room.”
Stanley hadn’t heard about Smart’s praise until it was relayed to him from a reporter Tuesday.
“He said that?” Stanley asked with a big grin.
Smart did, indeed. But while Stanley enjoys special teams, tt’s within the offense that he would most like to start making an impact.
Stanley enters his final season with the Bulldogs with just two measly catches to his career credit. Both of those came early in his freshman year. He has a total of 23 yards receiving and has never scored a touchdown.
That’s not to say Stanley hasn’t been contributing on offense. On the contrary. Along with Simmons, he has developed into one of the most dependable blocking receivers on the team. That’s what earned Stanley his only career start last year against Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. He came in on Georgia’s opening series with the specific task of executing a key block on a perimeter run.
“Jayson is a great downfield blocker,” sophomore safety Richard Lecounte said. “… He’s like everybody in that receiving room. If they get your hands on you downfield, it’s very hard to get off. Those guys have big, strong hands.”
Stanley has always done whatever he can to contribute. This is, after all, a player who before starting his last two years in high school made his way onto the field by trying out for — and winning — the punting job.
“I just try to do anything to help the team really,” Stanley said. “Somebody’s got to do it. It’s just a mindset.”
The key to being good at it?
“Effort, I’d say,” said Stanley. “You’ve got to want to.”
Stanley’s prowess in the run game is one thing, but he was recruited to Georgia out of Fairburn’s Creekside High to catch the football. He simply has done that enough. In 2016, Stanley actually started five games, but he did not have a single catch.
He did have two rather notable drops, however. One of them would have resulted in a long touchdown against Ole Miss.
But then there was that long touchdown catch from Jacob Eason he had in the G-Day Game two years ago.
“Yeah, it was pretty good, but I kind of want it to happen in a (real) game,” Stanley said.
Having not recorded a reception the last two seasons, Stanley definitely wants to haul in more his last year. And he’d “definitely” be thrilled to finally score a TD. But at this point, he’s not obsessed with it.
“I’ll probably be like, ‘now that I got this one, I’ve got to go get another one,'” he said.
That’s not getting easier in a receiver room that now goes 18 deep including walkons. Stanley said he was pleasantly surprised when Robertson showed up. He can now count him as another success on his impressive resume as a recruiting host.
As for who gets on the field and how much, it’ll all work itself out.
“There’s so much talent in that room right now,” Stanley said. “It’s, like, ‘wow, this is crazy.’ The big thing is just to get everybody to buy in on the same page. … “But we’re all in it together. We’re really making each other better.”
As long as Stanley continues to block like he has throughout his career, he will always have a spot on the field.