EVELETH — For Eveleth-Gilbert senior John Stanaway, playing college football has been somewhat of a dream for him for a long time. But, making that dream a reality didn’t seem possible for him until late in his high school career.
“It wasn’t until about midway through the season that I thought it was really possible,” Stanaway said. “It’s kind of been a dream of mine to play college ball for a long time but after seeing how good things were going for me during the season, I realized I could actually do it.”
Stanaway made that dream a reality Wednesday afternoon when he officially committed to play for the College of St. Scholastica next season. The 6-foot, 240-pound, two-way lineman is planning on playing on the defensive side of the ball going into his college career.
Since 2011, the Saints have captured the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference title five times. And with the Saints’ program being only a decade old, Scholastica’s conference dominance on the field was a key reason Stanaway chose to play there.
“They play good football at Scholastica,” Stanaway said. “Their program is run really well, for sure. Plus I see myself fitting in there academically as well.”
Stanaway, who also plays basketball for Eveleth-Gilbert, expressed gratitude at being able to extend his time in athletics past high school.
“It feels really good to know that I can keep playing sports past high school. Sports are definitely a big part of my life and no one looks forward to giving that up.”
What exactly attracted the Saints coaches to Stanaway? According to Golden Bears head coach Derek Malner, “The tape doesn’t lie.”
“He’s a phenomenal, hard-working athlete,” Malner said. “He was constantly one of our best pass rushers this last year and you can see it in film that he gets after it hard out there.”
Stanaway’s leadership qualities also proved to be a boon for the Bears and for potential recruiters.
“He’s someone that didn’t have much experience before stepping in to his senior year,” Malner explained. “But he found that spot on the team where he was most needed and he stepped up for us. He’s always willing to lead and find that spot where he’s needed.”
And while Stanaway has shown to excel on the field, his high school coach believes there are some things he’ll need to work on to prepare for the next level of play.
“He needs to continue to build strength. He has a very strong lower body and he kind of needs to get his upper body going to match that. Another important thing on the line is lateral quickness so it’ll be important for him to work on that before he gets to school.”
Malner went on to note that Stanaway’s choice of St. Scholastica comes with some benefits.
“John is a very good student. He’s certainly dedicated in the classroom and that fits in well with Scholastica and their top-notch academics. Also, one of our former players, Cooper Dosan, will be with CSS next year so that’s a familiar face for him.”
Dosan, a 2017 graduate of Eveleth-Gilbert, played as a defensive end and fullback for the Bears.
For Stanaway, being able to continue his playing career is something he hopes can help the younger Bears athletes that are unsure if they can make it to the next level.
“It helps me tell other people that they can achieve whatever they put their mind to,” Stanaway said. “That if you put in the work year-round and dedicate yourself, then good things will come.
Stanaway, who is undecided on a major, also wanted to give thanks to those that helped him along the way achieving his goals.
“I definitely want to thank my parents for believing in me,” Stanaway said. “And I also want to thank my coaches for believing in me and for getting me ready for this next part of my playing career.”