Santa Margarita football coach Harry Welch once said there are plenty of great quarterbacks around the nation but he wouldn’t trade Johnny Stanton for any one of them.
It didn’t take long for Stanton to prove his worth to the Santa Margarita football team. In his first year as starting quarterback, he led the Eagles to a PAC-5 title and a state championship. Both were firsts in school history.
Stanton, a Nebraska commit, isn’t wasting much time to show his value to head coach Bo Pelini and the Huskers football program … as a recruiter.
Stanton helped Nebraska’s efforts in coming to California and recruiting one of the state’s top running backs, Chaminade’s Terrell Newby.
Just as he showed on the football field, the tougher the situation, the more he raised his game, which made a lasting impression on Newby.
“He was (recruiting me) real hard, especially when UCLA came in (with an offer),” Newby said. “He was sending me texts about considering (and) keeping Nebraska in mind. He was there with me, pretty much, the whole time throughout my whole recruitment with Nebraska.”
In addition to texts and phone calls, Stanton traveled from South Orange County to watch Newby play in Chaminade’s final two games of the season, which concluded with a CIF Western Division final loss at Serra.
“(I was) trying to build a relationship with him so that he feels more comfortable coming to Nebraska,” Stanton said.
As a recruiter, he threw a fine pitch, Newby says.
“Me and him are the only Cali guys committed to Nebraska so it felt a little bit better knowing that he’s going there also,” Newby said. “(He told me) we can bring in some west coast recruits. We can do a lot. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the state and I’m highly ranked too so it looked really appealing.”
The Chaminade running back was certainly aware of Stanton as the two began to forge a bond.
“He was all over TV and everything,” Newby said. “I saw him every night, pretty much, on the weekends.”
Even after winning a state title, Stanton became a folk hero of sorts after tearing his ACL last September against St. Bonaventure.
Stanton suffered the injury on Santa Margarita’s fourth play of the game against the Seraphs but remained in the game, guiding the Eagles to a 35-27 win.
In one of the many big plays he made in the game, the Eagles were facing a third and nine from their own seven yard line. Stanton dropped back to pass and was all but sacked in his own endzone. He somehow escaped the pressure and scurried for 12 yards and a first down.
“Something happened where my flexibility wasn’t affected as much,” Stanton said. “I don’t know what it really was. Obviously, it hurt a lot but I figured it was sprained but if it was torn, what’s the worst that could happen if I keep on playing?
“I was just happy we were able to get that win.”
It wasn’t until an MRI the next day that he discovered he, in fact, suffered a season and high school career ending injury.
“I was devastated at first but I made up my mind to not let the injury overcome me and immediately as soon as I could, start getting better,” Stanton said.
After alerting the Nebraska coaches of his injury, they told him they were not concerned about his ability to come back from the injury and his commitment remained intact.
His high school career was over as the owner of nine school records, including being the school’s career (5,900 yards) and single season (3,967 yards in 2011) leader in total offense.
He continued to press on, determined to remain as integral a part of the team as he could be without stepping onto the field. He mentored Santa Margarita’s young quarterbacks, Josh Canty and Kyle Sweet, while preparing for surgery and the extensive rehab to follow.
Today his days are “really full” with school and rehab as he attempts to get back onto the field. He has physical therapy sessions three times a week and despite being limited in his drops, he participates in throwing sessions four times a week.
He’s known as Husker_Johnny4 in the Twittersphere and “Johnny Tebow” to his Santa Margarita teammates. Next week on National Signing Day, Feb. 6, he and Newby are scheduled to sign their National Letters of Intent with the University of Nebraska, making Husker Johnny official.