Joe Hyland, the football coach at St. Joseph’s Catholic School, has his own opinion of Knights junior running back Andre Stoddard.
“Show me a kid at that spot who’s better, and I’d love to have that kid, and I think anyone would,” Hyland said.
But Hyland wanted to know what those at a higher level thought of Stoddard, so he called on some friends who are assistants at major Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) colleges.
Their assessment, Hyland said, is that Stoddard is definitely of that caliber.
“I think he’s clearly a BCS football player, if things continue to move forward for him,” Hyland said, referring to those schools involved in the Bowl Championship Series.
In three years as the Knights’ feature back, Stoddard has rushed for more than 4,300 yards and 64 touchdowns. And that’s including a freshman season in which injuries limited him to eight games, only two of which he played from start to finish.
This season, the Knights’ third as a varsity team, Stoddard has rushed for 1,694 yards and 24 touchdowns, and St. Joseph’s, which has been in and out of the state’s Top 10 in Class A, is 6-2 entering tonight’s game on the road against undefeated and top-ranked Christ Church.
“A lot’s changed,” Stoddard said. “Obviously we’re winning. We’re just getting better and better as the season goes on. Our guys are putting in the time. It’s working.”
Stoddard is 5-foot-10 and a solid 220 pounds, about 30 pounds heavier than his freshman year. He said he has benefited greatly from the Knights’ weight program, which Hyland said is “second to none,” and the team’s offensive linemen have benefited as well.
“They do an amazing job,” Stoddard said. “None of the stuff I do would be possible without them. They create great space for me to make plays. I think that was the biggest concern coming into this season, but it’s the best line we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Hyland said Stoddard is a “quality student” who has been timed “unofficially” at about 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash.
Stoddard said he has heard from Clemson, Notre Dame, Arkansas, Louisville and Mississippi State.
Stoddard also attracts the attention of the opposing defense each Friday night.
“I use it as motivation,” he said, “just knowing teams are going to come after me. I have to do a better job of preparing. It’s fuel in the tank for me.”
Despite the attention, Hyland said Stoddard remains “the consummate team player.” In last week’s 60-0 win over Whitmire, Stoddard rushed for 160 yards and five touchdowns on six carries and then gave way to others.
“He’s going to get six carries, and then he’s going to come off the field and support his teammates,” Hyland said.
Stoddard does a good job of protecting the ball, especially considering he was born with just a pinky finger and thumb on his left hand. Hyland said Stoddard has fumbled “maybe three times” as a Knight.
“It doesn’t hold me back at all,” Stoddard said. “I can do anything any athlete does.”
He’s become a mentor of sorts to a 7-year-old boy in the community named Drew, whose mother reached out to Stoddard.
“I hang out with him,” Stoddard said. “If I can help a kid who’s in a similar situation to me, that just makes my day.”