Dillon Stoner’s first year in Stillwater was a whirlwind of emotions.
A versatile athlete at Jenks High School, Stoner worked his way into the mix of the deep wide receiver corps at Oklahoma State and forced the coaching staff to skip on redshirting him and finding a spot for him in the rotation.
But that spot didn’t last long.
In the fourth game of the season – the wacky one in Waco, Texas – Stoner suffered a foot injury that would sideline him for the remainder of the year.
Going from the high of getting minutes as a true freshman, to seeing the season wiped out – giving other receivers a chance to get plays that his name otherwise would have been called – definitely took a toll on him.
“I mean you definitely think that. You have a lot going through your head at that time, but all you can do is all you can do, and that's the mindset that I had,” Stoner said. “With that, you have to play with a chip on your shoulder, and that's what I try to do.”
Fortunately for the freshman, he had somebody who was going through the same thing.
With senior receiver Marcell Ateman missing the entire 2016 season due to injury, Stoner was able to lean on a veteran presence to help him get through the hard times.
“Even before the injury, we got close running routes together, and he taught me a lot,” Stoner said. “When the injury did happen, we became close, and he took me under his wing because we went through that together, even though he got cleared before I did. Marcell is a great guy on and off the field.”
But there was a silver lining to when the injury happened.
With it coming in the fourth game of the year, he narrowly made the cutoff to receive a hardship waiver – which may be granted to athletes who appear in fewer than 30 percent of team competitions then suffers a season-ending injury.
So he managed to get a taste of playing at the Division I level, without sacrificing a full year of eligibility. He will go into the 2017 season as a redshirt freshman.
“It was a major blessing,” said Stoner, who had five catches for 27 yards prior to the injury. “At the time, it was very frustrating, but looking back it, couldn’t have been a bigger blessing for me in so many different areas. It’s just another year of experience and really helped me get to where I am now.”
Stoner, who also played defensive back and served as punter and return man in high school, was used in the Wildcat formation before his injury where he went 1 for 2 with his one completion being a 2-yard touchdown pass at the end of the Central Michigan game – that should have been the game-winning score if weren’t for the controversial ending giving the Chippewas the victory. It was the only TD pass for the Cowboys in 2016 that was not credited to Mason Rudolph.
“It huge and very eye-opening as well in the sense of how excited and nervous I was at the same time,” said Stoner, who mentioned that he never played quarterback at Jenks. “That Central Michigan game was obviously a critical point in the game, and getting tossed back there showed the coaches had confidence in me and it was just a huge confidence booster for myself.”
The Jenks receiver took seven months of rehab before he was cleared to return to working out, and didn’t get a clean bill of health until eight months after the injury. He was finally allowed to begin running again during the spring football season and got the all clear just before the summer months.
Nearly a year later, the injury doesn’t appear to have too much of a lingering impact.
Last week, Gundy said the freshman from Jenks is going all out every practice with reckless abandon in the Sherman Smith Training Center.
“He made a catch where his body was parallel to the ground and reached out and caught it,” Gundy said Wednesday. “… He’s had a really good preseason. He’s 12 pounds bigger, he gets it – he’s played.”
Gundy said it remains to be seen if Stoner will be utilized in the Wildcat formation again this season. But it is a formation that he said back in the spring that he wanted to utilize this year.
Even with a loaded wide receiver stable in Stillwater – with the return of Ateman, James Washington, Jalen McCleskey and Chris Lacy, along with the insertion of former five-star recruit Tyron Johnson – Stoner is still expected to get those minutes he missed out on in 2016.
“We have so much talent at the wide receiver position and to be included in the rotation is huge,” Stoner said. “I couldn't be more excited, and I'm just going to try and fit in whatever role I have to help this team win.”
Elmquist writes for the Stillwater News Press.