A little-used bench option from 1993 to 1995, former OSU wide receiver Dimitrious Stanley broke out during the 1996 college football season that started just a few months after I donned cap and gown and walked for my degree in Ohio Stadium. I was at every home game in which Stanley played — in that same stadium.
So when news of Stanley’s passing at just 48 years old after a battle with prostate cancer for four years dropped three days ago, it shook me up a bit.
It occurred to me that many of our readers, and even some of our writers here at Land-Grant Holy Land, are too young to have seen him play, or at least too young to remember it. I figured that those of us who do remember him have an obligation to talk about what we remember from the man who wore No. 3 for the Buckeyes (for three seasons, anyway — he wore No. 86 his freshman season). After all, remembering people who are gone is the only form of immortality we’ve got at the moment.
A four-year letterwinner from 1993-96, Stanley could easily be lost amidst the names of great Buckeye wide receivers. He was only a starter during his senior season of 1996. He made the most of his time in the starting lineup for John Cooper’s Buckeyes that season, catching 43 passes for 829 yards and eight touchdowns to lead the Buckeyes in all three major categories.
Of those 43 catches, 10 receptions came in a monster performance against Wisconsin for a total of 199 receiving yards. The Buckeyes needed every play Stanley made that day, winning just 17-14 at home. Ohio State had beaten No. 4 Penn State by 31 points a week earlier and then struggled to score or to run the ball against the Badgers’ eight-man front. A sloppy OSU team turned the ball over repeatedly and had a kick blocked.
Still, Stanley scored the winning touchdown on a throw by Joe Germaine, keeping the Buckeyes on track for an eventual Rose Bowl berth.
Only four players have bested Stanley’s career high for yards in a game in that win over Wisconsin, and they are a who’s who of great OSU receivers: Jaxon Smith-Njigba (twice), Terry Glenn, Santonio Holmes, Gary Williams, and David Boston.
Stanley capped his senior season in style, helping the Buckeyes snap a long Rose Bowl title drought. Two of his catches came on a second-half drive that gave his team a 14-10 lead. The second of those catches went 72 yards to the house.
The Buckeyes couldn’t hold the lead and fell behind late. But Germaine rallied the Buckeyes and converted a pair of third downs on the decisive drive by finding Stanley. Boston capped the winning drive with a five-yard touchdown reception. All Stanley did was pull two defenders with him on a slant route to free up Boston for the game-winning score.
The winning drive was one of the most dramatic game-winning possessions in school history. It snapped Ohio State’s four-game losing streak in the “Granddaddy of them All” and gave the Buckeyes their first Rose Bowl championship since 1974.
Entering the 2022 season, Stanley was still seventh on Ohio State’s career list for receiving yards per game, averaging 18. As previously mentioned, he didn’t play much his first three seasons, so his career totals are not much higher than his 1996 totals: 63 receptions for 1,136 yards and 13 touchdowns. By today’s standards, that’s somewhere between what a second and third receiver on a Ryan Day offense nets in one season.
Stanley then capped his OSU career with a selection to the 1997 Senior Bowl. After a cup of coffee in the Canadian Football League and arena football, Stanley’s football career was over. He may be more widely remembered for his work on local television in Columbus than as a player, but I’ll never forget what he did to get Ohio State that elusive Rose Bowl win.
While there are far bigger names on the long list of great Buckeye wideouts that leap more immediately to mind, Stanley deserves to be remembered, too.