Notre Dame tackle Ronnie Stanley has heard the one knock against him is a lack of passion. The future Top-10 pick says it couldn't be further from the truth.
Those questioning Ronnie Stanley's passion for the game of football need to look no further than a big decision he made early in 2015.
Stanley could've been one of the top tackles selected in that year's NFL Draft, but after seeing Ohio State win the national championship, the 6-foot-6, 312-pounder felt coming back to Notre Dame and trying to reach the pinnacle of college football was more important than his professional prospects at that time.
And though the Fighting Irish would fall short of their ultimate goal last season, Stanley certainly was able to cement his status as a potential top-10 pick in this year's NFL Draft.
"I always feel like I'm going to be the best," Stanley told reporters when asked if he feels he's the best tackle in this year's draft. "That's the mindset I always have."
Labeled in his NFL.com Draft Profile as a "durable, intelligent player with experience at both tackle spots," Stanley is expected to be able to help out an NFL team at either the left or right tackle spots.
He began his college career as a right tackle, starting every game at the position his redshirt freshman season, but it didn't take long after that to see that he had all the tools needed to play the most-coveted position along the offensive front.
Asked whether he was "opposed" to switching back to right tackle in the NFL, Stanley gave a direct answer.
"No, I'm not opposed," he said. "I'm just trying to win games. Wherever a team wants to put me … (I'm) Equally comfortable at both sides."
So while the skills are certainly there — he "races out of the starting blocks and into pass sets as well as anyone in the country" and has elite hand placement, scouts believe — Stanley said he's spent much of his training and evaluations for the NFL Draft answering questions about his passion for the game.
It's not that Stanley hasn't been a good teammate or has displayed signs of indifference while on the field — he just believes his laid-back persona gives the impression that just isn't really into it.
That couldn't be further from the truth, he said.
"I don't think many people know how important football is to me and how big of a role it's played throughout my life," he said. "I think there's a big -- I don't know -- aura of people thinking I'm lackadaisical, I guess. I don't know, but I'm just really trying to show people how much football means to me and how much I do care about it."
So while Stanley hopes to erase any doubts about his passion for football — as well as improve upon being a hard-nosed, physical lineman — he'll continue to lean on the lessons learned at Notre Dame until he hears his name called in Chicago later this month.
"We had a great offensive line coach and he really taught us great fundamentals and things that translate to any offense that you could be put into," Stanley said. "I'm just thankful for what he's done, how hard he harped on the fundamentals and the little things. And he really made it an important thing for us to look at the little things as big things."