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Boomer Bio: Kenny Stills
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Sooner Receiver Finding His Way As True Freshman
Patience can be a fairly scarce commodity when it comes to collegiate athletes, especially while living in a climate often predicated on instant gratification. More often than not, tomorrow’s budding stars are required to sit and wait their turn.
That’s never an easy task for a young player accustomed to soaking up the spotlight.
In the case of Kenny Stills, his patience was put to the test from the moment he stepped onto the University of Oklahoma campus. After finishing up his high school requirements a semester early, the young receiver arrived in Norman back in January ready to get a head start on his college career.
Almost three weeks later, Stills was still waiting for word from the NCAA Clearinghouse as to whether or not he could start classes and join his new teammates for offseason workouts. Time dragged on and Stills’ frustration level grew with every passing hour.
“It was difficult,” said Stills, explaining the days leading up to his eligibility ruling. “I think I was being tested with patience. I’m slowly maturing and growing up, and I definitely think it was a good learning process.”
Finally, after watching roommate and fellow San Diego prep star Tony Jefferson become more and more acclimated to coach Bob Stoops’ program while he himself was stuck in limbo, Stills received good news from the NCAA, clearing the way for him to start classes and work out with the team.
“Even with all that, it’s been great so far. I’ve loved every bit of it,” said Stills, who came to OU out of La Costa Canyon High School in Encinitas, Calif. “I have no regrets about coming out early and I still feel getting here for the first semester has worked out to my benefit.”
Evidence of that was clearly demonstrated during OU’s annual Red-White Spring Game when Stills led all receivers with six catches for 84 yards and a touchdown. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound freshman produced a pair of acrobatic catches, including a leaping grab that resulted in a 31-yard score.
“(Kenny) is a very natural receiver and looks comfortable out there. He’s an excellent route runner and a young guy who’s done a great job,” said Stoops afterward. “We expect him to make an impact.”
Only time will tell if Stills continues to improve and progress to the point where he becomes one of quarterback Landry Jones’ favorite targets. Other receivers like Ryan Broyles, Dejuan Miller, Jaz Reynolds, Brandon Caleb and Cam Kenney are firmly in the mix, while Stills knows he has plenty to prove before he earns a spot in the rotation.
“I was definitely encouraged about how everything went during the spring, but I also realize I have a lot of improving still to do,” said Stills, who chose the Sooners over Florida and several other big-name programs. “It’s a big step going from high school to college, but it’s still football to me. I’m comfortable wherever it is I’m playing ball.
“I always expect good things from myself — and I look forward to the challenges in front of me.”
Stills’ biggest challenge through one college semester was surviving coach Jerry Schmidt’s rigorous conditioning routines. Next stop: an even more physically demanding summer program.
“That’s probably the hardest thing about being at OU so far — the mental aspect. It’s all about mental toughness here,” said Stills. “They push you to your limits and you either become stronger or you quit. I’ve become so much stronger mentally, it’s hard to believe.”
The rest of Stills’ skills are more obvious, like his 4.36 speed and super soft hands. He’s elusive and tough and his work ethic is second to none. His spring game performance is definitely a positive sign for Oklahoma fans who watched Jones and his receiving corps — outside of Broyles — struggle to establish any real consistency last fall.
OU receivers coach Jay Norvell probably summed it up best when describing Stills back in February...
“Kenny is a really athletic kid. He’s got excellent speed and he’s got great body control. He’s an excellent route runner and he has a really good football IQ,” offered Norvell. “He’s just a kid that I think has a real bright future as a college receiver.”
After being forced to wait to get his college career started, Stills may be on a fast track to making a major impact this fall. But first, he had a little business to take care of back home, as he returned to California on June 18 to walk with his high school classmates at graduation.
(Editor's Note: This story appears in Sooner Spectator's 2010 Football Preview issue. To subscribe, call 1-405-488-0242 or go to our on-line store.)