As a junior for ASU, Stanley Jennings won the SIAC’s MVP award by throwing for 2,392 yards and 26 TDs — a far cry from his freshman JUCO season when he was suspended from the team. (email@example.com)
ALBANY -- Stanley Jennings is the kind of leader who never quits.
Never quits working, never quits learning, never quits trying to get better.
"I'm really not too vocal; I'm more about production," the senior quarterback said. "I don't like to talk. I like to go out there and perform."
There he was after his two-hour practice was over Tuesday, running extra sprints up and down a steep hill beside the Rams' practice field.
It's a workout he's started doing after each practice, and Tuesday there were several of this teammates right alongside him following in his footsteps.
That's Stanley Jennings -- Albany State's quarterback -- a leader who sets an example and "makes the team go," according to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Uyl Joyner.
Of course, dig a little deeper, and you'll find the road has gotten rocky at times for the kid from Pompano Beach, Fla.
But after a record-setting and history-making junior season at ASU, those days are officially in the past.
"He is a winner, a proven winner," Joyner said. "He won in junior college and then came here and won. We are just hoping he keeps it going and the rest of the guys get behind him, so he can lead us to where we need to go."
Jennings, the reigning SIAC MVP, was nearly unstoppable last season, throwing for 2,392 yards and 26 touchdowns. But it's been a long, and at times rocky, journey for Jennings, who fell in love with football while growing up in the tough neighborhoods of a South Florida suburb in Pompano Beach.
He first played quarterback at the age of 13, and started for the Parkway Academy varsity team as a freshman. As a sophomore at Parkway Academy, Jennings threw for 21 touchdowns and 1,400 yards in just seven games.
But then life started to get rough.
Because of a quarterback controversy between him and another player that made coming to practice unenjoyable, Jennings said he quit the team his sophomore season. He and his family eventually moved to Georgia, where he landed at Marietta High School, but initially saw limited playing time as a junior. He then started as a senior, putting together an impressive enough season to land a college scholarship.
In his first collegiate season at Dean College in Franklin, Mass., he led his team to a North East Football Conference Championship and was named NEFC Player of the Year.
Then life got complicated again.
WHO: Albany State (0-0) vs. Savannah State (0-0).
WHAT: 61st meeting between longtime rivals.
WHEN: 5 p.m. Saturday.
RADIO: 98.1 FM.
LIVE UPDATES: Log onto twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.
After his freshman season at Dean College, Jennings said he was suspended for lighting a firecracker in a hallway on campus, so again he looked for a fresh start elsewhere. He transferred to Southwest Mississippi Junior College, excelling from the moment he stepped on campus. At Southwest Mississippi, he was named his conference's top quarterback during his sophomore season, throwing for 1,244 yards and nine touchdowns to go along with eight rushing scores in just nine games.
Through all of the ups and downs, however, Jennings said he has learned how to overcome adversity and stay patient.
"When I step on the field, I am trying to do anything and everything to win," he said. "(At times in my football career), I wasn't really taking that off the field. I wasn't interacting with the football team as much off the field. That's something I am doing now."
And that's something he is doing well.
Jennings entered last season competing for a starting spot with 2009 backup Wayne Campbell Jr., and not only ended up beating Campbell -- the older, wiser and more experienced quarterback -- out for the spot, he led the Rams to an 11-1 record, their first outright SIAC title since 2005 and the SBN Black College National Championship.
And now that Jennings has matured both on and off the field -- while seeing the way that hard work can pay off -- he hasn't stopped there.
During the preseason, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound quarterback said he worked tirelessly to improve his game and his fitness by working with both the team and personal trainers. And that dedication and work ethic didn't go unnoticed by the Rams' coaching staff.
"I have been impressed with his summer workout," head coach Mike White said. "He has always been a gun-slinger type and can make any throw. Sometimes it gets us in trouble, but I have been really impressed with his work ethic and how he has progressed in taking more leadership roles coming into his senior year."
Jennings is also an elusive runner -- as evidence by the escapability he showed at times last year to turn from a pocket passer into a running quarterback -- but that skill didn't develop by choice.
"I am always poised in the pocket. If I have to scramble I am already used to it because of the linemen at (Southwest Mississippi Community College). I learned to scramble because they didn't give me any protection," quipped Jennings, who rushed for two touchdowns last season.
This season, Jennings thinks he will be more capable of reading defensive alignments and calling audibles to keep his offense out of bad situations.
"He is the brains of the operation," Joyner said. "I can only call what I saw from the last time they lined up. If they don't line up the same, he is going to get us in the right play. He is going to make the right decision when the play takes off. He is the brains behind the operation. I am just the man behind the man."
Jennings laughed off the prospect of himself being the "brains behind the operation," but it was his leadership that made the ASU offense so potent last season. Jennings, whose Rams finished 11-1 and reached the quarterfinals of the Division II playoffs before losing to Delta State, said last year was just the first step.
"I wouldn't even call last year a success, because we haven't finished," he said. "To me, losing in the playoffs is big. Success to me is being 15-0 (and winning a national title). I look at this as another season that I have to get better.
"Last year was a wake-up call. We really felt like we wouldn't lose. We learned the things that we have to do different to be number one."
That's the kind of quarterback Jennings has evolved into -- one who won't quit until he's No. 1.