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/Lariat
Johnny Stanton IV was born on Sept. 7, 1994 in Rancho Santa Margarita. He started playing flag football in the 3rd grade, then jumped to tackle in 6th grade and later found his love for the game his freshman year.
“I was always a bigger baseball fan than football fan,” said Johnny Stanton, current fullback for the Cleveland Browns. “But ended up falling in love with football my freshman year of highschool.”
Johnny Stanton was a star in highschool, being named first team All-Area by the Los Angeles Times in his junior year. He rushed for over 1,500 yards with 25 touchdowns and completed 2,400 passing yards with 13 touchdowns. After this stellar season, Stanton was invited to the SouthernCaliforniaPreps.com All-Pac 5 football team, where he won MVP.
Stanton hoped to improve on his junior year but his season was cut short after a knee injury that ended his season five games in. During that short stint, he was named School Coaches Association/ GTM sportswear athlete of the month by leading Santa Margarita to a 5-0 record completing 50 passes for 949 yards with 12 touchdowns and 386 yards with 10 touchdowns.
Stanton was regarded as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation after being ranked 9th by 247sports dual quarterback ranking. He was also invited to the prestigious Elite 11 camp in 2012 that has been home to many current and former NFL QBS like Matthew Stafford, Kyler Murray, Trevor Lawrence and many others.
“Being invited to the Elite11 camp was one of my first real indications that I can play with some of the best guys in the country in my age,” said Stanton. “It was a really good opportunity to meet some incredible players and men, but also to test my skills with the best of them.”
He would soon commit to Nebraska in 2012. He also received other scholarships to Airforce, California, Navy and Oregon, but he never took a visit with any of them.
Stanton played football for the Nebraska Cornhuskers where he redshirted his freshman and served as a backup on his redshirt freshman season. At the end of that season, Stanton transferred to Saddleback College.
In Stanton’s one year at Saddleback, he led the Gauchos to a 6-0 Conference record and a 10-3 overall record. Saddleback also played in the California Community College Athletic Association Football State Championship game, where they fell short to the City College of San Francisco 26-14.
“Getting to win a regional championship and play in the state championship was amazing,” Stanton said. “Not only as a accomplishment for our whole team and recognition for how hard we worked but also for myself to be able to get back playing at a level that I was proud of again.”
Stanton totaled 3,400 yards passing with 27 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. On the ground, he ran for 752 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“Coming off my high school injury, 2015 at Saddleback was my first time playing in games regularly in 3 years,” Stanton said. “Coach McElroy gave me a great opportunity to get back to my normal self and we had a lot of success being able to do so.”
He would later transfer to University of Las Vegas to play out his final two season eligibility. During his final season at UNLV, Stanton made the decision to switch positions from quarterback to tight end so he could play his final season of college football.
“Playing quarterback is extremely tough, everyone knows that and I wasn’t naive to how hard it was to play every other position,” Stanton said. “But I don’t think I knew just how different it would feel to play a different position. Learning how to play tight end and full back I had to figure out movements that every other position on the field knew already.”
Stanton would declare for the draft after his two seasons at UNLV, but would go undrafted and later sign with the Minnesota Vikings as an undrafted rookie. While transitioning from tight end to fullback, he injured his lower leg and spent the entire season on injury reserve and would be released by Viking in January of 2019.
After his brief stint with the Vikings, Johnny signed with the Cleveland Browns, whose new coach was his offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings.
On Oct. 12, Stanton was called up to the practice squad for the injured Andy Janovich then, nine days later, the former Saddleback quarterback scored his first touchdown for the Cleveland Browns. Stanton helped extend the Browns lead to help them beat the Broncos 17-14.
“When you’re on the practice squad, you take pride in your preparation and trying to get ready for Sunday just as if you were playing,” Stanton said. “But when your number gets called, you really take the extra step to make sure you’re completely ready.”
Johnny Stanton was highly looked at as one of the best quarterbacks in the nation as a senior in highschool. Now, he is a big part of one of the best running attacks in the National Football League and hasn’t even reached his full potential yet.