Stafford's Always Been Ahead of The Curve

Matthew Stafford (AP Images)

Matthew Stafford's stranglehold on the starting quarterback position shouldn't surprise anyone who knows him.

The story of Lions training camp is clearly quarterback Matthew Stafford. The No. 1 pick in the NFL draft has lived up to his billing so far and is pushing veteran Daunte Culpepper for the starting job.

As Stafford, Culpepper and No. 3 quarterback Drew Stanton have rotated reps in practice, Stafford has shown the impressive arm strength for which he is known, zipping balls effortlessly downfield. He has wowed the crowd with deep passes to wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

But what has been more impressive is Stafford's knowledge of the offense and overall presence. A week into his first NFL training camp, Stafford simply carries himself like a starting quarterback.

"I don't feel like I'm coaching or talking to a rookie when we work with him," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "It's not just talking, saying that's how it is because he was the No. 1 pick and all that stuff.

"He has a very natural feel for the game and understands concepts. He can translate things he's done before to what he is doing now without a lot of repetition. He can go right to it and make that decision and make that transformation."

Stafford is only 21 years old. But when it comes to football, he has always been ahead of where he is supposed to be.

He was a precocious kid. His father, John Stafford, said he diagnosed a failed sweep on television by saying the tackle didn't pull -- when he was 4 1/2 or 5. He stunned his seventh-grade coach by spotting a poorly aligned cornerback, changing the play and attacking him for a touchdown -- in seventh grade.

He became a nationally known talent by 10th grade. As a 15-year-old sophomore, he led his high school to a playoff victory over a team led by a senior quarterback, Graham Harrell, who set Texas records with 4,825 passing yards and 63 touchdown passes that year. Before more than 20,000 fans at Texas Stadium, he threw for 403 yards and three TDs in a 38-28 upset.

He left high school early for college. He took off for Georgia shortly after winning a Texas state title.

"It was tough," Stafford said. "Nobody wants to leave their second semester of senior year in high school. ... I was so dead-set on playing early and getting in there and playing football and not sitting. I knew that's what I needed to do, especially at the quarterback position."

Stafford started as a freshman at Georgia. Then, after three years as a starter in a pro-style offense, he entered the NFL draft, became the top pick and now is dead-set on playing early again.

"What he did in college and high school has prepared him for being in the position that he is in now," Linehan said. "This guy ran a pro-style system. He shot the ball down the field, attacked all parts of the field with the passing game and did a great job of running their run game. I would ... say it's actually really prepared him for what he's doing."

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