Junior College transfer and mid-year enrollee A.J. Stamps has received more praise from the coaches than any newcomer. A week doesn’t go by without Mark Stoops giving the safety some form of praise, “He’s got good athletic ability and he’s giving us some options back there, a lot tighter coverage, so that’s helped.”
The praise is justified. It took less than a handful of plays during Wednesday’s open practice to notice Stamps’ presence, coming up inches short from reeling in a pick-6. Normally holding onto the ball isn’t difficult for the former wide receiver, but sometimes it can be even more difficult to hold back from obliterating his teammates, “Just the other day I had what you would call a kill shot, but it was one of my teammates so I had to tear it off on his hip and let him go about his business.”
After using the last month to learn the system and adjust to the speed and physicality of the SEC, Stamps is ready for today’s big dance. Stamps was an All-American and National Champion last year for East Mississippi Junior College, yet he’s never played in front of a crowd with more than 2,000 people. “Compared to 40,000? I’m like ‘WHOA!'”
We saw the excitement on Za’Darius Smith’s face during each Cat Walk last year; don’t expect much different from A.J., “I’ve never played in front of thousands of fans before. I can’t wait to get caught up in the crowd and caught up in the hype,” Stamps said. “The first two plays I’ll probably have some jitters or so, but it’s football. It boils down to the 11 players on the field you’re playing against.”
Go show some support for A.J., he can’t wait to pay you back.