Saddleback quarterback Johnny Stanton runs past a blocked defender. The Gauchos were defeated by the Tigers, 38-18, in the 2015-2016 season. (Cliff Robbins)
Former Gaucho quarterback Johnny Stanton signed a free agent contract with the Minnesota Vikings last week following earlier recruitment to the East Coast team’s Rookie Minicamp. The successful weekend ultimately yielded an invitation for the former Gaucho to play professionally for the NFL, but his journey from Nebraska back to California and finally on to Nevada was more challenging, according to Stanton in an interview May 11.
After sustaining a serious ligament injury while playing locally for Santa Margarita Catholic High School, Stanton faced an absence from football during his recovery. Returning to play again as a quarterback for Nebraska proved challenging for reasons beyond physically healing his knee.
“I didn’t have the ability to just turn it on because with my injury, it had been so long since I had competed at a game level,” Stanton said. “When I finally got to Saddleback, and I started the first two games, they didn’t go well. I got benched at halftime my second game. Then finally during the third game, things just seemed to click, and I finally had my old confidence back, and that made all the difference, just being able to get back into that game mindset and make a difference.”
Stanton went on from Saddleback College in 2015 to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he received a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology this weekend on May 12. Upon graduating from UNLV, he will soon depart to begin training with the NFL.
Although Stanton played as a quarterback much of his athletic career, he joins the Vikings now prepared to play a variety of positions but officially signed as a full back, according to the former Saddleback football star. Stanton led the Gauchos to the state championship in 2015 in both passing and rushing and was the National Division Southern League Offensive Player of the Year during his Orange County residency.
“As far as my time at Saddleback goes, I think I attribute so much of my success at UNLV towards my teammates and coaches at Saddleback,” Stanton said. “I was able to get back into that winner’s mindset while I was at Saddleback and If I’d gone straight from Nebraska to some other school and didn’t have the chance to play immediately, I wouldn’t have gotten that confidence back.”
In addition to changing up his position on the field, Stanton will also acclimate to very different temperatures at his new Vikings home, trading triple-digit heat in the summer for winter temperatures that consistently drop below freezing in snowy Minnesota. But according to Stanton his personal “game plan” will remain the same, pointing out the goal for comfort in either location is to stay indoors as much as possible. Hopefully, the new $1.13 billion translucent dome at the Vikings Stadium seen at the 2018 Super Bowl aids a reasonably comfortable transition.