Ill-timed injury gave Stoudermire a life lesson

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 24, 2012 - 10:45 AM

Sitting out most of last season gave Troy Stoudermire a fresh appreciation for football and better perspective of a game he loves.

Whether Gophers fifth-year cornerback Troy Stoudermire will break the NCAA record for kickoff return yards this season might be on the minds of others, but not Stoudermire -- not so much because he doesn't care, but because he's just not worried.

"The kickoff thing, that'll come. I'll break it -- trust me," said a smartly grinning Stoudermire, who has a Big Ten record 3,102 yards kickoff return yards and is in striking distance of the NCAA mark of 3,517. "The biggest focus now is just on winning -- winning with my team."

That's something Stoudermire wasn't able to even see much of last season while he sat on the bench after breaking a bone in his right arm in the fourth game. As an individual season that seemed poised for success -- he had 24 tackles and two interceptions in his four games -- came to a sudden halt, Stoudermire had two revelations that changed his outlook, he said:

He realized how much he truly loved football, and he realized the sport isn't everything and life must go on. He was granted a medical hardship waiver and the year of eligibility that goes with it, bringing everything into focus.

"Getting hurt isn't good, but you know, it really helped me," said Stoudermire, who began his Gophers career in 2008 as a true freshman. "I got another chance to play another full year at corner and go through the spring and get all the stuff down that I needed to get down ... and it made me realize football could be over any day and I needed to have a Plan B. It really opened my eyes to my choices. It helped me realize that football is really important to me, but it's not the only thing that's important to me."

Stoudermire had some time to appreciate other important aspects of his life, such as family, and he was able to develop his skills as a leader on the team -- something that will come in handy this season with the Gophers' young defensive backfield. After last season, the Gophers lost seven members of their secondary and will rely mostly on underclassmen to help fill in the gaps.

"He's definitely accepted that leadership role, and guys who are younger look up to him," said junior Brock Vereen, who started at cornerback last year and moved to safety this season. Vereen, along with Stoudermire and Michael Carter, root a backfield that otherwise contains less-seasoned players.

"In the locker room and the meeting room, he's always picking your ear and making sure you know what you need to do," Vereen said. "His mentality and attitude going into something is always contagious, I guess you could say, and all the other guys feed off it."

And players like Stoudermire acting as step-in coaches at times can be very efficient for the development of the team, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys said.

"Veterans can really help those kids, because we're paying attention to the play that's going on," he said. "So when they come off the boundary, when you get older kids that know what's going on, they can help them in between series, explain to them what they're doing wrong and what they should be looking for. It's all about stability, the more comfortable they get, the faster they play. ... After sitting through all the meetings, Troy and some of the others are really good at making sure the young guys are caught up."

As for getting caught up from a year off himself, he's already there, he says. All that extra time spent analyzing the game motivated him and is paying off. The former receiver feels more comfortable than ever at cornerback, where he'll be for a full year for the first time. It can all be taken away in a minute, he knows, so he doesn't want to waste any time with lapses or losses -- things he doesn't talk much about.

It's not so much because he doesn't care, but because he's just not worried.

"I feel like Charles Woodson out there," he announced, laughing. "One hundred percent corner. No receiver, no kick returner, I feel like a cornerback."

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    Friday August 24, 2012

    Gophers defensive back Troy Stoudermire has a chance to break the NCAA career record for kickoff return yards. Here is where he ranks:

  • Troy Stoudermire

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Cleveland 86 FINAL
Indiana 93
Washington 81 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Golden State 113 FINAL
Toronto 89
New York 121 FINAL
Detroit 115
Orlando 88 FINAL
Atlanta 95
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Boston 106
LA Clippers 97 FINAL
Memphis 79
Brooklyn 98 FINAL
Houston 102
Miami 102 FINAL
New Orleans 104
Minnesota 89 FINAL
Chicago 96
Utah 104 FINAL
Denver 82
San Antonio 107 FINAL
Sacramento 96
Milwaukee 93 4th Qtr 0:22
LA Lakers 101
Oklahoma City 108 4th Qtr 1:58
Portland 110
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 2
Calgary 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Washington 0 FINAL
Carolina 3
Chicago 0 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Colorado 5 FINAL(SO)
Dallas 4
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Anaheim 4
Siena 63 FINAL
Quinnipiac 73
Harvard 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Penn 69 FINAL
Brown 75
Fairfield 65 FINAL
Canisius 72
Manhattan 75 FINAL
Iona 79
Saint Peters 67 FINAL
Marist 69
Princeton 60 FINAL
Yale 81
Ohio 58 FINAL
Akron 70
Dartmouth 84 FINAL
Columbia 71
Valparaiso 56 FINAL
Cleveland State 53
Louisiana Tech 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 88
Seton Hall 77 FINAL
Xavier 60
Cornell 54 FINAL
Harvard 60
Yale 49 FINAL
(14) Princeton 67
Elon 51 FINAL
Drexel 54
Northeastern 47 FINAL
James Madison 82
St Johns 60 FINAL
Butler 49
Creighton 71 FINAL
Georgetown 62
Brown 58 FINAL
Penn 75
Columbia 50 FINAL
Dartmouth 60
Canisius 54 FINAL
Siena 58
St Josephs Brooklyn 35 FINAL
NJIT 78
Western Carolina 86 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 80
Colorado 66 FINAL
Arizona 51
Southern Ill 72 FINAL
Bradley 66
Drake 59 FINAL
Wichita State 80
Indiana State 71 FINAL
Evansville 53
Illinois State 53 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 67
Northern Iowa 70 FINAL
Missouri State 72
Utah 42 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 46
Providence 62 FINAL
Villanova 71
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