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Stanford said as he was growing up in Canada, he devoured everything he could about the NFL.
KYLE GREEN | The Roanoke Times
Virginia Tech football receiver Josh Stanford is expecting more time on the field this season.
KYLE GREEN | The Roanoke Times
Josh Stanford saw his first season with the Hokies cut short by an injury. He said he hopes the coming season will give him a chance to improve as a receiver.
Thursday, April 11, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Although he played high school football in Georgia, Virginia Tech redshirt freshman receiver Josh Stanford is a Canadian, born and raised in Mississauga, Ontario, just outside Toronto.
His first love, hockey, was too expensive, so he migrated toward football, eschewing the Canadian Football League for all things NFL, a superior product in his mind.
“I used to watch the NFL Network every single day,” Stanford said. “I would watch the boring stuff, when they talked about stuff that wasn’t football. I loved it.”
He still pours himself into the game — yes, even over the boring, detail-oriented stuff — a big reason he could be in line for an increased role this season.
“Josh is a kid that’s going to tirelessly go at not only football, but also school,” receivers coach Aaron Moorehead said. “That’s just the way he is.”
It’s a wide open competition at receiver this spring for the Hokies, who must replace their top-three pass catchers from last season — Marcus Davis, Corey Fuller and Dyrell Roberts.
D.J. Coles, returning from a knee injury for a second shot at his senior season, is a lock for playing time. After that, it’s an unproven bunch, headlined by Demitri Knowles, Kevin Asante and Stanford.
That’s a fairly meteoric rise for Stanford. While there was a solid group of athletes among a Caribbean contingent that lives near Toronto, there’s nowhere near the coaching and money invested in football as there is in America.
Because of “some stuff” that was going on back home (Stanford didn’t want to elaborate), his parents decided it’d be best for him to move south to live with family friends in Georgia when he was 15.
There in the football hotbed, his game really took off. He played at Martin Luther King High in Lithonia, east of Atlanta, blossoming during a senior season in which he caught 56 passes for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns. His recruiting heated up late and Virginia Tech snagged him in January before signing day in 2012.
It didn’t take long for him to validate that scholarship. Tech coaches had high hopes for Stanford in 2012, planning to play him as a true freshman, despite the seniors ahead of him. But he got his knee rolled up on against Austin Peay in the second week.
It ended his season, prompting the Hokies to seek a medical redshirt for him. The NCAA still has not approved it.
“I took that really, really, really hard,” Stanford said of the injury. “ I worked so hard to be better every day, and it just kind of cut my season off before it could even get started.”
Fully healthy, he has a positive attitude this spring, one aided by a refreshing and energetic approach from his new position coach, Moorehead.
Himself a former NFL player with the Colts, Moorehead has his group watch film clips of receivers from The League running routes that the Hokies mimic in their pro-style scheme. Stanford watches intently but doesn’t think he has an NFL comp.
“I’m not 6-5 and I’m not 230,” the 6-foot-1, 192-pound Stanford said. “I just have to work for everything, so I just try to take parts of different receivers’ games and try to put it together.”
Stanford’s ability to pick things up quickly, without constant reminders and corrections, caught Moorehead’s eye.
Quarterback Logan Thomas already seems to have confidence in Stanford too, targeting him several times in Monday’s scrimmage. They hooked up in a 37-yarder after a pump fake and nearly connected on another long ball.
Stanford’s technique is coming along. Moorehead wants him to pump his arms more coming out of breaks, not round off his cuts as much and work on his releases, but the coach sees potential.
“He’s really raw,” Moorehead said. “If he can just continue to focus on the details of the position, focus on the coaching points of the position and understand the plays, he’s going to be a guy who catches a lot of footballs for us.”
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