As one of the best athletes ever to play football at the University of Washington, QB Isaiah Stanback suffered through coaching changes, offensive philosophies and a lack of confidence. Heading into his senior season, the expectation was that he would lead the Huskies to a winning record and he was on his way to doing that until a foot injury put an end to his best season on Montlake.
Because of his injury, Stanback was unable to run at the NFL Combine that recently concluded in Indianapolis. He did throw the ball for the coaches and scouts on hand and lifted as well, but his most impressive attribute, his speed, was not on display. Even so, he impressed several teams during his time at the Hoosier Dome this past weekend.
“I'm on track,” Stanback told the assembled media in attendance when asked about his rehab from the Lisfranc injury he suffered in October against Oregon State. “I'm following doctor's orders. I've been throwing the ball, dropping back and throwing, doing drills.
“I was in a boot for four months, so I just got out of that a couple weeks ago and I'm just following orders to get back and start running again. In about three weeks I get to start running, doing drills. My doctor is going to release me for that.”
Stanback measured in at an impressive 6-2 and 218 pounds of solid muscle. He was a bit tentative in the passing drills that were run by Seattle Seahawks QB coach Jim Zorn, appearing to be more worried about completing passes instead of letting it rip. However, some of the scouts on hand came away impressed with his athleticism.
After missing the final month and a half of the season, Stanback said it was helpful to get away from the game that has given him so much. Although it was tough, he said he learned some things about himself.
“It kind of humbles you and makes you really appreciate everything that you are involved in,” Stanback said. “It makes you appreciate your body. You learn a lot. It's a process that I've gone through now and it's something I've learned from, definitely.”
Inevitably, the questions turned to what many think could be a change of position once he enters the league, very similar to what current San Francisco 49ers RB Michael Robinson did after he finished his career as a quarterback with Penn State.
“I'm very open (to changing positions) but I definitely want the opportunity to play quarterback,” Stanback said confidently and with the trademark smile on his face. “That is one thing I really want to push for, but I'm not going to be closed-minded and against it.
“I'm a team guy. I'll do whatever it takes to get ‘Ws’. I've helped out at receiver and kick returner earlier in my career when I wasn't able to play the position of quarterback, because Cody Pickett was there. It was something I've done before and I'm still willing to do, but I have my goals and I have things I want to get accomplished and I think I'm more of a threat at quarterback. There are a lot of guys in the league that can get out there, line up and run fast. There are not that many quarterbacks that can make the plays and really bring change to the game like I believe I can.”
Washington head coach Tyrone Willingham and his staff, notably offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Tim Lappano, have helped improve the confidence of players like Stanback and the young man who played his high school ball at Garfield High School in Seattle said he hopes to continue that development in the pros.
“For me personally, I love playing quarterback,” Stanback said. “I'm passionate about the position. I don't' see any reason why I can't play the position. I've been through a lot of changes in the past few years and haven't been comfortable to get established at
that, but the past two years, where I have had a consistent staff, I have made great jumps.
“I'm just looking for an opportunity to do that.”
Looking back on his roller-coaster career, Stanback recalled his favorite play, a game-changer against Arizona in 2005.
“It was a 70-yard touchdown to end the half,” Stanback said with a chuckle. “That was probably my biggest play.”
Stanback also noted that Willingham has the Washington program on the right track.
“He is a great coach,” Stanback said. “He brought in a great staff. The players that were already there, he has their minds right and the guys he is bringing in are good athletes and good players.”
Stanback will now focus on individual workouts for the 32 NFL teams who will be looking to draft him on April 28th or 29th and he’ll be waiting with anticipation to see what lies ahead for his future.
We’ll have more from him as the weeks lead up to next month’s Draft.