Former Michigan State QB Drew Stanton Gives Back After NFL Retirement
LANSING — Drew Stanton stood on the 11th tee box at the Lansing Country Club on Monday, greeting each group of golfers who passed by. All morning and afternoon.
His relaxed smile said it all. It’s pretty good being a retired NFL quarterback.
“A lot of guys I’ve been around and talked to, when you can finally come to terms with your past, it’s a really nice feeling, because you’re proud of what you’ve been able to accomplish,” said Stanton, 38. “I mean, the time and the effort and everything that I put into it, to be able to accomplish what I wanted for the course of my career, I’m very proud of that.
“But it was time to leave.”
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The former Farmington Hills Harrison High and Michigan State football star capped his 13-season NFL career by earning a ring with Tampa Bay as the No. 3 quarterback behind Tom Brady after signing in late December 2020 for week 17 and being elevated to the active roster for the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl 55 win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
Although he last played in a game in 2017, making four of his 17 career starts for the Arizona Cardinals that year, calls have been made throughout the past year. Would he be interested in another playing opportunity?
Stanton told everyone no and admitted “I have no desire to play” again. For him, it was time to step away from the game and start the next stage of his life, spending more time with his wife, Kristin, and their four children.
“It’s fantastic,” said Stanton, who threw for more than 4,000 yards with 20 touchdowns in 38 career games with Detroit, Indianapolis, Arizona, Cleveland and Tampa. “Being able to come down to Tampa and win a Super Bowl ring and see that race and be in it, it brought me so close to realizing, ‘OK, now Drew, it’s really time to walk away. Last year, it was one of those things where I felt awkward as everyone was getting ready for training camp and doing all that stuff. This year I’m so happy to just be outside and to look inside.
Coming back from his Arizona home to help where he grew up — Stanton is from Okemos, just east of Lansing — has always been a big thing for him, too.
Stanton made his High 5ive Foundation charity golf outing a priority throughout his career. It became a summer highlight around its old campus and helped a number of local charities before the pandemic slowed attendance in recent years.
In the meantime, the death in recent years of George Perles, Peter Secchia and Frank Kelley brought uncertainty to their once-in-a-lifetime mid-Michigan golf event (the Kelley-Perles-Secchia Special Olympics Golf Classic) that served as the unofficial return to fall football. Stanton and Spartan football coach Mel Tucker stepped in to fill that void by joining forces to launch The Classic on Monday, with proceeds going to Special Olympics of Michigan and the Children’s Miracle Network.
“Just a great Spartan, loved in the whole community. Everyone loved George and his family,” Tucker said of Perles. “He invested a lot of his time and his life in the state of Michigan. And so, for me, it’s just a way, in my own way, of trying to help keep his legacy alive. I know it was an important event for him.
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Attendance has increased for the new tournament, with morning and afternoon tee times “at full capacity,” Tucker said. He visited the golfers early and then played in the second session. NFL quarterback Baker Mayfield, who played two seasons for Tucker’s hometown Cleveland Browns alongside Stanton, played golf during the morning. And ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit was the emcee at the “Afterglow” dinner.
Stanton ended his career tutoring Mayfield and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis. He continues to do so for Mayfield during his summer of trade rumors and uncertainty with the Browns. Mayfield returned the favor by flying to Lansing for the release of Stanton before returning to work a youth soccer camp on Tuesday in his alma mater, Oklahoma.
“Drew is an extremely important person in my life,” Mayfield said. “He’s been a mentor to me, just a role model with the way he lives his life. I’m so grateful to him for being in Cleveland when I got drafted there and teaching me the ropes and all the ups and downs and you know how to run NFL business. …
“There are a lot of things that people might think my life is crazy about right now, but it’s all out of my control. That’s another thing Drew taught me: control what you can and let go. the rest fall into place.
Says Stanton: “It’s a relationship thing. So to be able to see Baker and have him come out and make an effort to come up here is great. … I was very grateful to have him here, and a lot of people I knew from Michigan State who are here, it’s great to see those faces. But Baker in particular will always be special, just because of the time we spent together in Cleveland.
“And I want to see him go to a place where he can be successful, where he can be himself and be in a position where he can thrive. And a change of scenery, I think, will do just that for him. So I am delighted that he has this opportunity.
Building those bonds, Stanton said, is part of what he loved about football. He continues to work with players through the many options he is currently considering for the sequel.
Even if he doesn’t know exactly what his future holds.
“I’m still trying to figure that out,” Stanton said with a smile. “I obviously love the sport and would like to stay involved to some degree. I do stuff for the Cardinals radio network in Arizona. I really enjoyed it. I do work with different quarterbacks and I mentoring, working on things, and really enjoying it, so a lot of things in different places.
“But the most important thing has been my family, and it will remain that. So, I take the time to make sure that I can be the baseball coach, the softball coach and the soccer coach, make sure that I can be the husband that I want to be and all of those things, and then we’ll pick up the pieces from there.