When the Oklahoma State University Cowboys invited Stephenville High School senior Cole Stanley to join their football program as a preferred walk-on, they didn't have to ask him twice.
Stanley had a few offers from NCAA Division II and Division III schools to play football, but he was aiming higher.
After he displayed his skills at the Air It Out Football Camp in Abilene, OSU reached out to him. The coaching staff invited him to the Cowboys' game against TCU, and he got to meet many of the coaches.
His local ceremonial letter-of-intent signing had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 concerns, but he will be headed to the Stillwater, Oklahoma, campus as soon as the team's official reporting date is set.
“I enjoyed the recruitment process. I just had a bigger dream for myself,” said Stanley, a National Honor Society member who made straight As all four years in high school.
Stanley lettered in football for three seasons with the Yellow Jackets, which included several starts at quarterback. In 2019, his senior year, he was a two-way starter — at cornerback on defense and as a slot receiver on offense.
He said that the OSU coaches recruited him flagged as an “athlete.”
“Kind of a utility guy. I'll probably start out in the defensive backfield area,” said Stanley, who will turn 19 in June. “Things could change. I'm just happy to be playing college football. I'm just enjoying my dream coming true. I loved the secondary, but I'm also an offensive-minded guy. I like to think I see the field real well. I'm really excited.”
SHS head football coach Sterling Doty said he is very excited to see Stanley get his chance to play at the NCAA Division I level.
“I believe he's going to make it because he's an extremely hard worker, and he's internally motivated, and driven to be a great player,” Doty said.
Stanley's ability to play several positions also makes him valuable at the collegiate level, Doty mentioned.
“As a preferred walk-on, you have to be willing to play wherever they need you,” Doty said.
Stanley has physical assets that also make him stand out, of course.
“I think he's got really good quickness, and he's got a high football IQ. So that's going to help him. It's just exciting to know he's going to do what he wanted to do — to play college football.”
Stanley will start out at the Big 12 school getting some financial support based in part on his favorable ACT score. But he could earn his way into a football scholarship from his “preferred walk-on” status. He said he will intends to major in business and finance, then enter law school.
“Ultimately, I want to be a sports agent,” said Stanley, whose parents are Matt and Tammy Stanley, and who has an older brother, Chad Loudermilk. “If that (doesn't) work out, I want to be an attorney … maybe personal injury or criminal defense.”
Stanley also lettered two years in golf and was also in the middle of his senior year playing baseball for the Jackets when the season was suspended until further notice by the UIL.
Early in the 2017 season, the year the Yellow Jackets reached the Class 4A state semifinals in football, Stanley and Tyler Schouten battled for the starting quarterback job after starter Easton Jones was sidelined with an elbow injury. But Jones made a remarkably quick recovery to rejoin the team in the fourth week, and led the Jackets the rest of the way.
Stanley was the starting quarterback early in the 2018 season, as a junior. He had 723 yards passing in all, completing 43 of 90 attempts with four touchdowns and two interceptions. The Jackets were ranked fifth in the state at that time in one poll, and sixth in another.
But in the fourth game of that 2018 campaign, a 26-21 loss to highly-ranked Midlothian Heritage, Stanley suffered two broken bones in his right foot. He had to undergo surgery to have a plate and six screws placed in his injured foot. Stanley's recovery went well and he was able to suit out for the final playoff game that season, against Celina, but did not play.
Renfro took over the reins for Stanley that season, and was eventually named as the starting quarterback going into their senior season in 2019. Meanwhile, Stanley contributed on both sides of the ball as a 5-10, 175-pound senior, including 16 pass receptions for 205 yards and two touchdowns.
That turn of events was not an easy pill to take, but Stanley said it resulted in personal growth that he can appreciate now.
“At first, it was hard on me. After that, I swallowed my pride,” Stanley said. “At the end of the day, all I cared about was winning football games. I matured, and because of that I'm a better man. I would not change a thing. It all worked out. It made me who I am today.”
Stanley gave credit to his teammates for helping him through that difficult time when he was recovering from his injury.
“I owe them a lot,” he said. “I'm so excited and blessed to be in this situation. I'm just ready to start again — a new place, with new people. Just be me, and just work hard, and do what I'm asked.”