Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly: Ronnie Stanley Was 'Hardest Worker We Had'


As left tackle Ronnie Stanley walked off-stage at the NFL Draft after shaking hands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, his college coach Brian Kelly was one of the first people to greet him.

Kelly made the trip to Chicago as Stanley's guest for the draft, and the Notre Dame head coach gushed over the kind of player the Ravens are getting with the No. 6 overall pick.

"He was the hardest worker we had," Kelly said. "And that's what makes the great ones great."

Stanley was an anchor of Notre Dame's offensive line of the last three seasons. He started every game at right tackle as a sophomore before switching to the left side and starting every game the last two years.

He was durable and consistent, and Kelly fully expects Stanley to continue that in the NFL.

"You got a staple in your program for 12-15 years with that guy," Kelly said.

Stanley could have entered the NFL after his junior year and likely been a first-round pick, but he opted to return to South Bend for another year. He went into last season as one of the best players on the roster, but Kelly never saw his left tackle lean on his talent at the expense of his effort.

"The physical traits you can see, but I think what separated him from the guys I've coached is when you have high-end talent, are they durable? Are they guys that come out every day and practice hard?" Kelly said. "He wasn't a guy that even with immense talent, took a practice off. He practices as hard as anyone."

The 6-foot-6, 312-pound blocker is an ideal build for an NFL left tackle. He has quick feet and is a natural athlete who was also a hoops star in high school.

But even with all of those physical tools, Kelly kept going back to Stanley's intangibles.

"You don't take a guy No. 6 if you're just saying he has good feet," Kelly said. "He has to have other things and that's what separates a guy that goes in the middle of the first round to the top 10. And the separator is the character, his durability, his willingness to fight through the bumps that come with playing the toughest game, and that's why he is where he is."

At the NFL Combine in February, Stanley brought up the fact that some teams had asked him about his love for football. He's a smart player who also has interests beyond football, but Kelly saw his left tackle play with passion for the last four years.

"First and foremost what you have is a great competitor, a guy who loves to play, loves the game," Kelly said. "You got a guy that just has an incredible work ethic. That's why a team like the Ravens does its homework. You pick championship caliber character, and that's what you got with this kid."

Kelly has coached plenty of talented players of the course of his career. Notre Dame has a strong recent history of producing top-notch offensive linemen, including Dallas' All-Pro guard Zack Martin.

Martin came into the NFL in 2014, quickly won a starting job and has made the Pro Bowl in back-to-back seasons. Kelly could see a similar future for Baltimore's new first-round pick. 

"He has that kind of competitive drive like a Zack Martin. He has arguably more athletic ability than Zach, and he has that kind of competitive drive," Kelly said. "With Baltimore there is an ownership, a general manager and head coach that recognize that you have to have good players, but you have to fit the culture too. And I knew Ronnie would fit that culture in Baltimore, that championship culture."

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