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Where Are They Now

Where Are They Now: Julian Stanford

Catch Up with the Jets Legend from Wagner


Granted, they'd both eventually make their way across the Arthur Kill to the Jets, but it was definitely few and far between from when Wagner College placed its first player, Rich Kotite, in the NFL, and its second, Julian Stanford. There were nine U.S. Presidents during that stretch of 44 years!

How was Stanford, an All-NEC linebacker as a senior in 2011, able to make the journey from the Staten Island campus to professional football?

"I think that it starts with a vision. You set goals. I just continued to work hard at Wagner," he said. "It wasn't a school known for football, per se. So there wasn't really like a blueprint on how to do things. I just knew I had to do something to make myself stand out.

"From that standpoint, I worked as hard as I could. I knew I was willing to do more than what those around me were doing. So I kind of prided myself on that. But I think the mindset, ultimately, is a huge factor. I think it's overlooked, especially coming from a smaller school where you don't see guys go to the NFL every year around you. So that kind of motivation isn't there. You have to just have that mental fortitude to get yourself going. I think that was a huge proponent."

Kotite, who was chosen by the Green & White in the 1965 AFL Draft and by Minnesota in that year's NFL Draft, played tight end in the league for four seasons, and became New York's Head Coach in 1995.

Stanford signed with Jacksonville as an undrafted free agent in 2012, and would then spend four years with the Jaguars, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions. During that time, he'd have to learn to make adjustments while experiencing the highs and lows of playing in the league before signing with the Jets in 2016.

"I had a little bit of success my first year. I started a couple of games through injuries and things of that nature. I think that kind of gave me the confidence to really put my stamp on I belong in this league. And so from there, I knew how tough it was to be an undrafted free agent. I knew with the Jags, amongst other teams, that it's a business and there's a lot of turnover," Stanford said.

"But it was like if things don't work out here, it doesn't necessarily mean that you can't play. So I just kind of went into that transitional mindset and understood that it was a business. Different transactions that will take place weren't really personal. I started taking that approach and treating it as such. So when I got let go from Jacksonville, it was like, 'Okay, what's next?' I was working hard and having a number of workouts with different teams and I just kept telling myself, 'Something will stick. You belong in this league.'

"And when I joined the Jets as a free agent, honestly, it was the opportunity that presented itself. I was actually in the middle of flying out to a team on the west coast for a workout, and my agent called. I didn't end up taking the connecting flight, and flew back to New York. I signed because I just felt so close to home that my family could come and see me play. And I kind of wanted to be somewhere I was wanted, to a degree."

Initially placed on the practice squad after being released by the Lions, while the Bloomfield, CT, native contributed primarily as a backup on Todd Bowles' squad, playing on special teams became his niche.

"I was having success," Stanford said. "And so I started to kind of really embody that role. I understood that if this is what keeps me in the NFL, I want to do the best I can to excel at it."

While that was Stanford's mindset, he was pressed into the starting lineup when needed. He stepped in admirably for Darron Lee three consecutive games in 2016. And against Kansas City in Week 13 at MetLife Stadium the following season, when he played every defensive snap as well as half of the ones on special teams in the 38-31 victory.

"There were times where I was matched up with (Chiefs tight end) Travis Kelce, and obviously he's a great player," Stanford said. "So that was a tough challenge and think I had a pretty good game. It was really an opportunity for me to kind of showcase what I could do on the bigger stage besides special teams, which is something that people knew that I could do. It was an opportunity for me to really solidify myself, I would say, as a linebacker. It helped me to propel my career further along, and kind of showcase value as well."

Following his time with the Jets, Stanford went on to play for Buffalo, Carolina and Baltimore. What makes him most proud of his career?

"Eleven years total for an undrafted player, let alone any player, there's not many guys who reach that point," he said. "I guess it can just be attested to the mindset, kind of understanding the business. It's a number of other different things. And just being able to say you've done something that most haven't done in that business."

Now retired from the game, Stanford has gotten into the real estate investing business. And he's also in talks with a franchise and exploring the possibility of opening a fitness studio.

"I'm still doing my due diligence with the financial documents that I was given, and confirm that I want to go with this specific franchise," Stanford said. "But from the time that I sign the documents to the time it's opened, I believe should be maybe 12 to 16 months."

Making their home in Connecticut, Stanford and his wife, Tiffany, have a 2-year-old daughter, Jordan.

"The last year, I've kind of taken some time to really enjoy my family," Stanford said. "My daughter, at an infant to toddler age, is pretty demanding in terms of time. Things worked out where I was able to have more time since I wasn't playing anymore. Playing in the NFL is very demanding and you miss out on a lot of things with your family. So I definitely took that time to enjoy her."

And besides being a husband and dad, Stanford accepts the responsibility and realizes that he is looked at as a role model for what he has accomplished.

"My story, which is one of a road less traveled, is something that will resonate with a lot of people, a lot more student-athletes Because I was undrafted, because I went to a smaller college that was not normally known for football, I think it could give hope. It speaks to a lot of kids who maybe are in similar situations to myself," Stanford said.

"It's actually nice to be in the position I'm in, to have been able to play 11 years at the highest level. To have so many youths kind of look up to you, and you be on that platform. So to me, it's very, very humbling. You want to do right because there's so many looking up to you. It's a very unique situation to be in, and it's something that I don't take lightly or for granted."

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