Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley stays golden in NFL Draft

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

CHICAGO — Notre Dame’s 486th all-time NFL Draft pick strode across the stage in a bedazzled cream suit with gold flourishes on Thursday night, matching the white shoes with gold studs adorning his uniquely graceful feet.

Those feet carried him to the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, where NFL teams fawned over the 6-foot-6, 312-pound anomaly of a 22-year-old. They carried him through 39 consecutive starts at Notre Dame — regardless of opponent or position. They moved with the balance and athleticism of a smaller man, protecting Everett Golson and DeShone Kizer and plowing open holes for Tarean Folston and C.J. Prosise.

On Thursday, they led Ronnie Stanley directly to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who looked up at the No. 6 overall pick and extended a welcoming hand. Stanley raised two peace signs to the crowd, smiled and dabbed — dropping his head into his massive elbow. He engulfed Goodell in a smothering hug, then answered questions from Deion Sanders.

He marveled at the places his talented feet have taken him — from Las Vegas, to South Bend to Baltimore.

“It’s been pretty exciting,” Stanley said. “I’m usually pretty calm, cool and collected, but it was very exciting feeling the energy from all the fans and the whole city in general. The NFL has done such a great job in putting on this event, and it was very exciting.

“I’m very appreciative to be a part of this select few group of guys that got to be able to be part of this.”

Fifteen picks later, Will Fuller joined the club. The 6-foot, 186-pound deep threat became Notre Dame’s second first round pick of the night, being selected by the Houston Texans with the 21st overall pick. The 6-foot, 186-pound wide receiver — he of the 4.32-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February — racked up 29 receiving scores in his final two seasons in South Bend, averaging a whopping 17 yards per reception.

Stanley, on the other hand, joined more than one exclusive club on Thursday night. He became Notre Dame’s highest draft pick since quarterback Rick Mirer was taken second in 1993. He’s the first Irish player to be taken in the top 10 since 1994 (Bryant Young) and the first Irish offensive lineman to go in the top 10 since 1969 (George Kunz). He’s Notre Dame’s 65th first round pick all-time and its 61st offensive tackle to be drafted.

He became so many things on Thursday, a Raven most of all.

“We can’t wait to get you here,” Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti told Stanley over the phone from the team’s draft room in Baltimore. “I was raised a Notre Dame fan, so I think I’ve watched about 90 percent of your games. I hear you’re a great young man, so congratulations. You’re a Raven.”

Step inside the war room for the moment OT Ronnie Stanley was drafted.https://t.co/AoDcmdAg48

— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) April 29, 2016

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, who has watched even more of Stanley’s college games than Bisciotti, shared the Auditorium Theatre green room with his former left tackle and three-year starter. He watched a rare player take the call and walk the stage.

“Anytime you have a guy selected this high in the first round, it not only speaks to his talent but you have to have more,” Kelly said. “You have to have character, a great work ethic and certainly all the other intangibles. So it really speaks to Ronnie and it also speaks to where we are as a program.”

Those intangibles allowed Stanley to become the first offensive tackle selected on Thursday, seven picks ahead of Ole Miss standout Laremy Tunsil, who many once assumed would be taken with the first overall pick.

But when the phone rang, Stanley wasn’t surprised. He was confident. He was ready.

“As a competitor, I’m always going to see myself as the best,” Stanley said. “I don’t think you’ll ever see me saying something different, but that’s me. I respect Laremy, because he’s a great player as well, and whatever team gets him is getting a great player.”

The Ravens and Texans certainly feel the same about their picks — one an agile tackle, the other a blazing playmaker.

Both products of Notre Dame. And as Stanley walked away from Kelly and toward his future on Thursday night, sporting a Ravens cap and a knowing grin, the university that shaped him was evident from his suit down to his shoes.

“I wanted to do something white and gold for sure, but I didn’t want to go too crazy," Stanley explained. "I thought this stood out but it was still pretty classy.”

Stanley was gone, but still golden.

RONNIE!!

He anchored our OLine for 4 years & now he'll anchor the Ravens for the next decade.

Congrats, Ronnie! pic.twitter.com/Prdy42zUUV

— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) April 29, 2016

☎️ Ronnie gets the call.

He's headed to Charm City as the 6TH OVERALL pick.#NFLDraft#NDinTheNFLpic.twitter.com/D6bvoByfJi

— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) April 29, 2016

Ronnie Stanley!!! congrats bro!

— Jaylon Smith (@thejaylonsmith) April 29, 2016

Congrats bro!!!!!!!! @ronnie_stanley

— Will Fuller V (@Will_Fuller7) April 29, 2016

Notre Dame’s Ronnie Stanley poses for photos with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by Baltimore Ravens as the sixth pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL football draft, Thursday, April 28, 2016, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)