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May 19, 2012
Dallas Jackson is the National High School Sports Analyst for Rivals. Email him your questions and comments at DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
In a town of one square mile, it is hard for class of 2014 standout offensive lineman Donell Stanley to go unnoticed.
"It is a small town, for sure," Stanley said. "It is slow-paced and that doesn't bother me. But all of this attention has come fast."
The 6-foot-3 tackle from Latta (S.C.) High appreciates everything that has been coming his way and now that he is more than 310 pounds he may be quite literally the biggest thing in the town of 1,410.
His invitation to take part in the inaugural Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge will see the small town hero head to Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta and go against 99 other top prospects from across the country.
"Some of those guys will be older but I can't use that as an excuse," Stanley said. "There is a lot of competitors headed down there and I have to get to work."
Hard work is something that never bothered Stanley. In fact, he always knew it would be hard work that could give him the opportunity to make something of himself.
"I have been one of the biggest kids in my area for my whole life," he said. "But there are a lot of big kids in other areas and so I have had to work to get noticed."
It has not always just been work on the field or in the weight room, but the importance of being able to carry a solid grade-point average was not lost on Stanley.
"You have to make the grades or they won't want you," he said. "The thought of playing on television and having people cheer for me is a dream. Keeping your grades right and doing well on your SAT is all part of the process."
Being eligible to play - and athletically gifted - are both things that Stanley does not take for granted.
He says that everything that has happened for him over the last year has been nothing short of miracle.
"It is life changing," he said. "Being able to go to college and make something of myself is an opportunity that I didn't know would be available to me.
"It is something that I feel like I owe it to everyone to take advantage of."
His "everyone" may be the town of Latta.
Stanley says that it is a community where everyone nearly knows everyone else. It is a place where people stay connected and really cheer for their own to do well.
"Everyone is proud of me," he said. "I have good friends and I have good teammates. We are all close and a lot of the friends I am closest with will come to all of my ball games. It makes me feel good to have that support and not have people being jealous with the attention I am getting."
And he knows he will be carrying his small town's name into the big city of Atlanta on June 22-24.
"I will probably be a little nervous," he said. "But I can't let that take over. It's pressure to do your best and make everyone proud. If you do your best everything will take care of itself."
Mike Farrell's take
Stanley could be the best player in the state of South Carolina for the 2014 class and he has the footwork and technique to do well at this event, despite being so young and just learning how to play the game. He wears size 22 shoes so he's still getting bigger and will grow into his body as he gets older. But he can move those feet very well and his kick slide is impressive. He has a long wingspan and is hard to get around from an outside rush. I think he can show he's one of the best linemen already in the Southeast despite being just a sophomore.