Bobby White knew what he saw. The former Sequoyah head football coach recognized Josh Stakely’s potential before he even stepped onto a high school field.
“I knew watching Josh in middle school he had a chance to be special,” White said. “The talent was always there, but what separated Josh was his drive.”
That drive pushed Stakely to not only a successful prep career with the Chiefs, but also to a standing as an impact tailback in college football.
Stakely recently finished up his freshman season at Georgetown University. He was the Hoyas’ leading rusher in just his first year with the program, notching 404 yards and two touchdowns on 76 carries.
“I enjoyed the playing time I got to experience this year,” Stakely said, “and it made me realize how much faster and more physical the college game is than high school.”
An all-time Chief
Stakely’s journey to Georgetown was made up of hard work, determination and help from others.
He immediately made his mark on the Sequoyah football program, starting the majority of his career and breaking Chief records along the way. And he did it all with a certain goal in mind.
“Josh wanted to play Division I football from the very start and he put the work in to make that happen,” White said. “Josh was a three-year starter for us and left as the all-time leading rusher in Sequoyah history, so he definitely made a huge impact. He also pushed others around him to be better because of his work ethic.
“As good as a player Josh is, he is an even better young man. I’m very proud of Josh.”
The hardest competitors are often their own toughest critics, though. Although Stakely is proud of what he accomplished at Sequoyah, he still holds regret for, in his eyes, what he didn’t do in his first year with the Chiefs.
“I like to think of my career at Sequoyah as I guess a pretty successful one,” Stakely said. “I wish I could go back and switch a few things up coming in freshman year, such as my mentality and how I looked at the game of football, but other than that I would say I did pretty good.”
‘I made it in’
Once it came time for Stakely and colleges to begin looking at each other, White and his staff gave their all to helping Stakely find the right fit. And multiple programs were intrigued by the Chiefs’ talented running back.
“My staff and I sent Josh’s film out to several schools,” White said. “He got some interest from UTC, Kennesaw State, Austin Peay, Carson Newman, Tusculum, Maryville (College) and others. One of my assistants, Dustin Peels, sent his film to Georgetown and they offered shortly after.
“Josh committed and signed late in the process with them because they gave him the opportunity he always wanted to play DI football and get an extremely good education.”
Stakely has a simple answer for why his path led to Georgetown.
“I ended up at Georgetown because I worked hard and God came through,” Stakely said. “I came in contact with Georgetown by one of my past coaches, Dustin Peels, sending out my film to their offensive coordinator and I talked to him on the phone that same night he sent my film to him.
“My recruitment there was very stressful because it’s a hard school to get into and I didn’t have a crazy high GPA. If it wasn’t for football, I wouldn’t have been able to make it in, but I made it in and that’s all that matters now.”
Climbing the ladder of a college depth chart isn’t the same as in high school, though. While many prep athletes enter high school football already the most talented player in their respective position, college players have all been specifically recruited by their school.
Plus, it’s not often that teams hand over their running game to freshmen. But Stakely gave Georgetown a reason to play him significant time.
“I moved my way up the depth chart by continuing to work and staying dedicated to the process,” Stakely said. “I understood that I was going to be last in the depth chart before I came up, but that just gave me all the right reasons to work harder, so I did.
“And with that, my playing time began to increase and my knowledge of the game also began to increase.”
Stakely’s former coach wasn’t at all shocked that he impressed the Hoyas so quickly.
“Not surprised at all,” White said. “I knew if given the chance he could take that job and run with it. All he ever needed was an opportunity and I know Josh made the most of it.”
Getting even better
Georgetown finished at 5-6 last season, including a 1-5 mark in Patriot League play. Along with his rushing numbers, Stakely also caught six passes for 25 yards and a touchdown, and recorded one kickoff return for 18 yards, as well as three tackles.
Those stats prove how important the freshman was to the Hoyas last year. Stakely is looking to make sure his impact only increases across the rest of his career.
“I’m looking forward to the changes that are going to happen in my life,” Stakely said. “I plan on getting bigger, faster, and stronger every season so I can excel in the game so it can take me places where I want to be in the future. I have big goals that I have set and I plan on achieving them no matter what.”
As for his former coach? White isn’t about to start doubting the kid he saw excel in middle school so long ago.
“If Josh works as hard as I know he will and stays healthy then I definitely could see him leaving as Georgetown’s all-time leading rusher,” White said. “He’s a special player. He will have to work for it but that’s definitely what I think he’s capable of.
“I learned a long time ago to never underestimate Josh Stakely.”