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Mr. Brandon Stokley
|Spotlight on Former Athlete: Brandon Stokley Football 1995-98
Stokley was never going to be out-worked
By Bruce Brown
Written for Athletic Network
February featured an abundance of retrospectives on the Beatles' arrival in America 50 years ago, and the seismic impact that would have on the world.
With apologies to Paul and John, Brandon Stokley knows all about The Long and Winding Road.
Stokley recently retired from the NFL after 15 seasons spent with five different teams, playing for two of those franchises twice each.
Still the all-time Ragin' Cajun leader in receptions (241), yards (3,702) and receiving touchdowns (25), compiled at then-USL from 1995-98, Stokley made himself into the best slot receiver in football.
Of his 397 NFL catches for 5,339 yards and 39 touchdowns, 284 – 71.5 percent – resulted in first downs. With superb hands, great spacial sense and trademark fearlessness, Stokley was money in the bank.
He began and ended his career with the Baltimore Ravens, catching a 38-yard touchdown pass from Trent Dilfer to spark a 34-7 Super Bowl win over the New York Giants to cap his second year.
There was plenty of drama in between, including another Super Bowl ring (Colts, 2006) and a series of injuries that factored in to his decision to move on.
“It was one of those things,” Stokley said. “It was something that I had thought about for a while. I knew it was something that would happen quickly. The way my body felt, it was harder to come back (from injuries). It wasn't fun anymore.
“I have peace of mind. I gave it all I had. I wanted to know I'd done all I could.”
Stokley, the son of former Cajun coach Nelson Stokley, led the state in receiving as a Comeaux High senior in 1993 with 80 catches for 946 yards – including 12 for 239 and two scores against Sulphur in his finale.
But he was under-sized and under-valued, signed with the Cajuns and redshirted in 1994. Pairing with Jake Delhomme the next year, Stokley set an NCAA freshman record with 1,121 yards on 75 catches with 9 scores. He came back with 81 receptions for 1,160 yards and 7 touchdowns in 1996.
A knee injury curtailed his 1997 campaign with just 20 grabs, but Stokley finished with a flourish with 65-for-1,173 and 8 scores as a senior. That included a 7-181-3 effort at Tulane, competing despite illness and a heavy heart over the death of his mother Jane earlier that week.
That mental toughness would become a Stokley trademark.
“My drive was my love to compete,” he said. “I always wanted to be the best. I put everything into it. I was not going to be out-worked. That's what drove me. That pride was what I made my career on.”
The Super Bowl touchdown catch was a natural choice for a career highlight, but there were others.
Stokley joined the Indianapolis Colts, and good friend Peyton Manning, in 2003. In 2004, he had his best statistical season with 68 catches for 1,077 yards and 10 scores, including Manning's 49th TD pass (then a record).
He played for Denver from 2007-09, opening the 2009 season with a dramatic tip-drill 87-yard score to beat the Bengals on the road. Adding flair to the moment, Stokley ran parallel to the goal line for a few strides to take a few seconds off of the clock.
With the Seahawks and Pete Carroll in 2010, Stokley's 45-yard touchdown catch helped knock off Super Bowl champion New Orleans 41-36.
After a torn quadriceps muscle ruined a season with the Giants, Stokley rejoined Denver and new arrival Manning in 2012. It was like they'd never parted as Stokley had 45 catches for 5 scores including an acrobatic 21-yarder in a 35-24 comeback victory at San Diego.
Then in a frigid playoff upset loss to the Ravens, Stokley made a carbon copy, leaping, tip-toe touchdown reception – fittingly, the final score of his career.
“The Super Bowl catch was great,” he said. “Just to be able to get there, and then have an impact.
“All 10 touchdowns from Peyton in 2004 were big, and the touchdown at Cincinnati was fun.
“The one against San Diego was a special touchdown. We were down 24-0 at half but came back and took the lead (28-24) on that score. That was a pretty clutch catch at an important time in the game.”
Despite the playoff loss, 2012 was enjoyable for Stokley.
“That was a special year, especially the way 2011 ended,” he said. “I was able to play with Peyton again. That was probably my favorite season.”
Manning had helped develop Stokley as the ultimate zone-busting receiver during their days with the Colts.
“It all started for me in Indianapolis,” Stokley said. “I was able to see what Peyton wanted for me, that there was a spot for a slot receiver that the quarterback and team can count on.
“I tried to do it really well. With Peyton, if you want to get the ball, you have to pay attention to detail, do it right and make plays.
“Playing wide receiver came naturally to me. I always felt I was fast enough. I was quick; from 0-to-10 yards, I could run with anybody. If they press me, they can't get their hands on me.”
But the Broncos signed Wes Welker – the next-generation Stokley – in 2013, so the ex-Cajun played his final year (with more injuries) with the Ravens before heading back home to Denver, wife Lana and their two sons.
The Stokleys had found a home in Denver during his first stint with the Broncos, and the family stayed in place for Stokley's gypsy-like seasons with Seattle, the Giants and Ravens.
“That was another factor,” Stokley said. “It was hard to continue. Lana (former UL softball star Lana Jimenez) always said she never wanted to be the reason I retired. I had to go out on my own terms. She's been so great through the whole process.”
Stokley spent 4 days in New York City covering the Super Bowl between two of his former teams for a local TV station, and enjoyed the experience, but admitted he's not sure where he will re-direct his legendary competitive drive in retirement.
“That's the hard part, something a lot of athletes have trouble with,” he said. “I hope (playing) golf helps. I love being around the kids. For now, I'm focused on being a great dad.”
He hopes that's a long-range endeavor. Nelson Stokley died at age 66 of Alzheimer's disease complications, and Brandon is well aware of studies about the impact of concussions in later life for NFL players.
“I feel fine right now,” Stokley said. “I've been tested in the last couple of months. I wouldn't' trade my 15 years in the NFL for anything. I've probably had more concussions than I'd like.
“In 20 years, I just hope I'm alive. I try to live in the moment.”
Spatial Notes on Brandon by Bruce:
Brandon Stokley at UL
Year Receptions Yards TD
1995 75 1,121 9
1996 81 1,160 7
1997 20 248 1
1998 65 1,173 8
Totals 241 3,702 25
Brandon Stokley in NFL
1999, Ravens 1 28 1
2000, Ravens 11 184 2
2001, Ravens 24 344 2
2002, Ravens 24 357 2
2003, Colts 22 211 3
2004, Colts 68 1,077 10
2005, Colts 41 543 1
2006, Colts 8 85 1
2007, Broncos 40 635 5
2008, Broncos 49 528 3
2009, Broncos 19 327 4
2010, Seahawks 31 354 0
2011, Giants 1 7 0
2012, Broncos 45 544 5
2013, Ravens 13 115 0
Totals 397 5,339 39
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Former Football: Locals in the NFL (former Cajuns) Delhomme, Stokley, Baptiste, Brown, Adams, more
Taken in part from the Daily Advertiser, October 7, 2010
How players with Acadiana-area connections fared last weekend in the NFL (* rookie):
WR Brandon Stokley (Comeaux, UL), Seattle Seahawks - Caught 4 passes for 62 yards in 20-3 loss at St. Louis in first game with new team after injury release by Denver. Season: 4 catches, 62 yards, 0 TD. Next: Open date.
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Former Football: Stokley finds new home with Seattle
The Associated Press • September 29, 2010
RENTON, Wash. - The Seattle Seahawks have signed former Denver wide receiver Brandon Stokley, reuniting him with offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates.
Seattle made the move Tuesday, along with signing offensive linemen Allen Barbre and Breno Giacomini. The Seahawks released running back/fullback Quinton Ganther and offensive linemen Mike Gibson and Mansfield Wrotto to make room.
Stokley played in all 16 games last season for Denver but had just 19 catches. Two years ago, when Bates was the Broncos offensive coordinator, Stokley had 49 receptions.
Stokley, 34, was released by the Denver Broncos Sept. 14 after reaching an injury settlement with the team. The Broncos had placed Stokley on injured reserved Sept. 4 with a groin injury.
In Stokley's three seasons in Denver, he had 108 receptions for 1,490 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The best season of his career came in 2004 with 68 catches for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Colts.
For his career, he has 307 receptions for 4,319 yards and 34 touchdowns.
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The Associated Press - August 14, 2009
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. Sure enough, a flashy receiver named Brandon with a knack for making tough catches and evading tacklers is turning heads at the Denver Broncos' training camp.
But the man making new quarterback Kyle Orton feel right at home is Brandon Stokley, not Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall.
While Marshall makes all his news off the field - he's asked for a raise and a trade and skipped offseason workouts in protest of his contract and medical treatment - Stokley has established himself as Orton's top target.
Day after day they hook up for big plays, Stokley hauling in tough passes over the middle one minute and touch passes in the end zone the next.
"We really worked hard this offseason to get on the same page and when we came out to training camp we were kind of a step ahead of everybody else," Stokley said. "And I think it's showing that we put in a lot of work in this offseason."
Unlike Marshall, who worked out on his own in Florida after recovering from hip surgery rather than participate in the team's offseason training program and mandatory minicamp.
Marshall made it clear when he reported to training camp that he was only doing so to avoid the $15,888 daily fines he otherwise would have faced.
But is Marshall, who will make $2.2 million this season, an "unofficial holdout"?
He's missed every practice since pulling up lame while running a deep route Aug. 2.
New coach Josh McDaniels doesn't talk about injuries and won't allow his hurt players to attend practice, two policies that have helped fuel speculation about Marshall's status.
McDaniels tried to dampen the notion that Marshall was either seriously injured or dogging it this week when he said he was confident his recalcitrant receiver will be ready for the regular season.
"Mentally, he's in all the meetings, he sees all the film sessions, sees all the corrections, so I'm not concerned with that - we still have over a month left for that to come into the fold," McDaniels said.
Stokley was listed as a starter on the team's first depth chart Monday, along with receivers Eddie Royal and Jabar Gaffney on the outside, with Marshall listed as a second-stringer.
McDaniels insisted Tuesday that the depth chart wasn't legit, that he only submitted it because the league requires him to, and said the reason Marshall was listed as a backup is because he won't make the trip to San Francisco so he can tend to a "personal situation."
That's his misdemeanor battery trial in an Atlanta court on Thursday, where a conviction for striking his former girlfriend could land him in jail and/or NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's doghouse.
Goodell informed Marshall last year, when he suspended the receiver for the opener over a series of domestic disputes with his former girlfriend, that a negative outcome in this case could lead to another suspension.
McDaniels also listed safety Brian Dawkins as the starter even though he has a broken hand and reportedly underwent surgery last week. But it was Marshall's relegation to backup status that had the Broncos bloggers abuzz.
"That's not our depth chart," McDaniels said. "We don't have any starters right now. We have competition right now. The league mandates that we put out a roster for who's going to start in the first preseason game and Brandon has a personal situation that he's going to attend to and won't be able to make that preseason game. And Jabar Gaffney's going to start in his place. It's very simple."
His consternation aside, McDaniels has been effusive in his praise of his other receivers, especially Stokley.
"Brandon Stokley is one of the toughest slot receivers that I've coached against and he's everything I thought he was when I came here: very crafty, smart, tough, physical, quick," McDaniels said. "He just has a knack of how to get open and that's an invaluable skill for a receiver to have, especially on third down."
McDaniels is instilling an intricate offense modeled after the one he ran in New England as Bill Belichick's offensive coordinator that employs a three-receiver set at its base.
So, Stokley can expect an even heavier workload than he had last year, when he caught 49 passes, the second-highest total of his career after his 68-catch, 1,077-yard season for the Indianapolis Colts in 2004.
"We'll play Brandon probably more than they did last year," McDaniels said. "Brandon's got a great role. Great teammate, great attitude, great work ethic and I love having him out here."
Things that he just can't say right now about Marshall.
Stokley's career stats
Year Team Rec Yds TDs
1999-00 Baltimore 1 28 1
2000-01 Baltimore 11 184 2
2001-02 Baltimore 24 344 2
2002-03 Baltimore 24 357 2
2003-04 Indianapolis 22 211 3
2004-05 Indianapolis 68 1077 10
2005-06 Indianapolis 41 543 1
2006-07 Indianapolis 8 85 1
2007-08 Denver 40 635 5
2008-09 Denver 49 528 3
Career 288 3992 30
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Catching for a cause
Lafayette Habitat for Humanity is hoping to increase the number of houses it builds this year from its usual average of four to eight.
Local businesses can donate to the cause by pledging money for each reception former Louisiana Ragin' Cajun star Brandon Stokley makes this season for the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. Preliminary levels of support include $25, $50 and $100 per catch.
Last season, Stokley caught 68 passes for Indianapolis.
If Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Brandon Stokley has a season like he had in 2004, projects funded by Lafayette Habitat for Humanity could reap big benefits.
Stokley is the 2005 honorary chairman for the Lafayette Parish arm of the group, which builds houses and makes them available at reduced cost for low-income families.
In that role, he will ask local businesses to donate funds to Habitat for each of his receptions in the 2005 NFL campaign.
"These are good people who want to turn their lives around, and it's good to be able to help out," said Stokley, the all-time leading pass receiver in school history for Louisiana's Ragin' Cajuns football program. "We can do a lot of good for Lafayette."
Stokley caught 68 passes for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. The pledge program is still being formalized, but the different levels of donations will likely be in the $25, $50 and $100 range.
"We finished our first house here in 1993," said Habitat member Linda Taylor. "We finance the homes at no profit and with no interest. We build three to five a year, and we're trying to step it up to eight this year. We hope Brandon's involvement will help raise our profile in the community."
The standard size for the ADA compliant Habitat homes is 1,050 square feet for three-bedroom homes and 1,150 for four bedrooms.
Stokley and Habitat board members were on hand Monday morning at the group's latest completed structure. Also there was Pam Simon, who has been in her Habitat home for a year and a half.
"It's beautiful," Simon said. "It's my home and I get to fix it up like I want. I can get in my flower bed, and I never thought I would love playing in my flower bed so much."
"I didn't know too much about Habitat for Humanity," Stokley said. "I didn't know what it entailed, but it's really a good program that can help people. And being able to give back to Lafayette is what it's all about."
Former president Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalind, have been heavily involved with Habitat for Humanity, giving it a nationwide and international profile. Stokley's involvement may help bring that focus home.
Originally published June 21, 2005
|Football:|| 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998|
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