Geno Stone Enters NFL Carrying a Chip on His Shoulder

S Geno Stone

There was a point in the NFL draft where Geno Stone could no longer watch. Frustrated that his name had not been called, Stone went to his room. He didn't watch the sixth round, which passed without him being selected.

In Round 7, the Ravens were thrilled to take Stone at No. 219 overall. The former Iowa standout has been college football’s best cover safety since 2018, according to Pro Football Focus, which called him "the biggest steal in the draft." NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah listed Stone as his favorite seventh-round pick.

You can believe Stone is using his three-day wait to be drafted for motivation.

"Sitting in that room was kind of stressful. It definitely puts a chip on my shoulder," Stone said during a video conference Monday. 

"I always had one my whole life. I know what I have to do to be on the field. I just needed an opportunity. Getting selected in the NFL draft is a dream come true. All I needed was an opportunity and to get my foot in the door. I'm going to show why I should stick and last."

This isn't the first time Stone has felt snubbed. A native of New Castle, Pa., Stone dreamed of playing college football at Penn State close to home and his single mother, Erin. He took nine official visits to Penn State's campus when he was in high school.

Stone said he was told that Penn State would offer him a scholarship, but the offer never materialized. Instead, Stone went to Iowa, where he blossomed into a sure-tackling safety with excellent instincts.

When Stone feels slighted, he has a history of responding. He returned to Penn State to face the Nittany Lions in 2018 and got revenge by scoring on a pick-six after he intercepted Trace McSorley, who is now Stone's teammate with the Ravens.

"When I went back to Happy Valley, got the pick-six, coming out the same tunnel where I walked out for my visits, a whole of reality hit me all at once and it was crazy," Stone said. "It hit me that I was where I was supposed to be. God brought me to the right place."

Stone feels he was undervalued in the draft because he was not nearly the biggest, fastest, or strongest guy in the room when compared to other top safeties. He measured 5-foot-10 at the NFL Scouting Combine and did not blow scouts away with his speed, running a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash.

It's a familiar theme for Stone dating back to his high school days. Other safeties look more athletic than him, but when the game begins, it's Stone making the plays. Stone was a centerfielder in high school and said he learned many of his ball instincts from chasing down fly balls off the bat.

"You see me in person, I definitely don't look 5-foot-10," Stone said. "But at the same time, I wear my heart on my sleeve and you can't measure heart. Every time I'm on the field that's where all my instinctive things come out. I think that's the biggest part of my game, how instinctive I am for the game of football, my football IQ. I go 100 percent every time I'm on the field. It's hard to take me off the field once you see me doing the things I'm going to do out there."

When he watched Stone on film, Ravens Director of Player Personnel Joe Hortiz saw a player who often looked a step ahead of the defense. Stone has the kind of anticipation that allows him to react faster than players who may have more footspeed.

"You just watch how he processes things," Hortiz said. "He's really quick to pick up routes coming across. [He] drives up quick, takes things away, shows a feel for the quarterback. He can identify run action quickly.When you watch, you see a guy that really does have a good feel for what's happening in front of him and is able to pick up keys and react quickly to take things away."

Stone is looking forward to learning from the Ravens' two starting safeties, seven-time Pro Bowler Earl Thomas III and Chuck Clark. In Thomas, Stone sees an elite safety who can help accelerate his learning curve. In Clark, Stone sees someone whose career path he can relate to. Clark was a sixth-round pick (2017) who made his mark on special teams and waited patiently for an opportunity. Clark's chance came last season when Tony Jefferson suffered a season-ending knee injury. Clark stepped into the starting lineup and, helped the Ravens to the best regular season in franchise history (14-2), and played well enough to earn a three-year contract extension.

If Stone plays primarily on special teams as a rookie, he is willing to accept that role. The Ravens have another young safety in DeShon Elliott who will be vying for playing time.

"As for my role this year, I just hope I can make an impact wherever I can for the team to win no matter where it is, special teams, defensive backfield," Stone said. "Special teams, that's where I started out in college and I made a name for myself. That's probably where I'll be ready to go first."

Stone gives credit to his mother for believing in him when others may not have. She convinced him to drive to Iowa, through a snowstorm, even though she wanted him near home. He has proved doubters wrong before, and he says the Ravens made the right decision to draft him.

"I've been hit with a lot of adversity my whole life and I overcame it a lot," Stone said. "It's just something that's put on my plate that I'm going to have to get over again. I'm ready for it."

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