When the Rice Owls held their first summer football camp on Sunday there were many players on hand from several high schools in and around the Houston area. One player that attended camp however, was not from the Houston area, nor was he even from the State of Texas. In fact, Dothan (AL) tight end Jack Stansell made the nearly 700 mile trek to Rice Stadium in an effort to catch the eyes of the coaching staff in hopes of earning a an offer from one school that sits atop his favorites list.
But the biggest reason for his trip to Rice wasn't even to play football. It was because he dreams of going to a school that has elite academics and Rice has been school he's pegged as one of his favorites for quite some time.
"I've been researching colleges since before the start of my junior year, looking for schools that were the best fit for me," the 6-foot-3, 203-pound tight end said. "Really what I'm looking for in a school is a program with rigorous academics combined with quality football, so in my research Rice really stood out as a school that not only had a progressing football program but rigorous academics with a great chemical engineering program. So obviously they are one of my top schools and I just felt it was worth the trip to go out there and compete in front of the coaches and try and get a spot."
Stansell is one of those rare finds on the football field that could potentially qualify for both athletic and academic scholarships and already holds a scholarship offer from Harvard.
"I do currently have an offer from Harvard," he said. "Samford has spoken with my coach and are prepared to offer a half athletic and half academic scholarship just pending my attendance at their camp, Jacksonville State has talked to my dad and told him they would put me on a pure academic scholarship but I would play football there. I guess it's kind of a different situation with me because I have a 34 on my GPA and my GPA is really high so a lot of those schools that can put me on academic scholarships are of course going to try and do that."
Participating in camp was not the first exposure Stansell has had with Rice; the talented tight end has already visited campus once and had several conversations with coaches over the last few months.
"I had some short phone conversations with coach (Chris) Thurmond during the spring," he said. "I've talked to him several times and actually attended spring practice during my spring break and had a campus visit and all that other stuff, so I guess you could say I've already taken my unofficial visit to Rice."
Besides the up and coming resurgence of the Owls football program and the strong academic tradition at Rice, Stansell also likes what the success that Owl tight ends have seen the last several years.
"Their tight end success is another thing that draws me to Rice," the Dothan standout said. "I read something about the two tight ends they had coming out this year on NFL.com and one of the NFL scouts made a comment that his team didn't have a tight end on their roster that looked like either of the two Rice tight ends. So it's pretty obvious that not only are they getting good talent at tight end but once they get there they are able to develop them and turn them into the right kind of football player."
Stansell really enjoyed the opportunity to work with Owls tight end coach David Sloan during his time at camp and felt like he received some valuable coaching from the former NFL All-Pro tight end.
"I think my favorite thing about Coach Sloan is how personable he is with all of the players," the talented pass catcher said. "He's willing to give 1-on-1 instruction while at the same time making sure that everybody feels equal. It's pretty obvious to me that he knows what he's doing at that position. Really it was probably the most in-depth tight end coaching I've received at any camp thus far and in a way it was also the most different. So it's apparent to me that the Rice tight ends are prepared in a different way than most other schools at the next level."
After catching just eleven passes last year, Stansell is expecting bigger things both for himself and his Dothan teammates.
"We have a really special senior class," he said. "This is probably the most disciplined senior class I have seen in my four years at Dothan, not only on the football field but also in the class room. I think we have a good chance to not only compete for the playoffs but also a state championship."
"For me personally, I'm expecting a breakout season," he added. "I had six receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown in our spring game, so if I can keep those stats up I could be looking at some super-12 type honors."
At this point Stansell is still flying a little under the radar after only catching 11 passes last season but he performed well at camp on Sunday and did really well in the Owls 7-on-7 drills. With more strong camp performances and a successful senior season, he could become a hot commodity.
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