CORAL GABLES — Stacy Coley doesn’t want to try to imagine his life without football.
“I would say I’d have still graduated high school, but as far as me doing something beyond high school, I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what I’d be doing.”
The former freshman standout who drew comparisons to Hurricanes greats is entering his senior year as Miami’s top wide receiver, one of the best in the ACC, and a potential high-round NFL Draft pick next spring. When he takes a break from polishing that resume, you might find him back home in Oakland Park, in a neighborhood he calls “Money Lane.”
He’ll always keep his eye on the streets.
“Where I stay at, where my mom stays at, there’s a lot of kids that are out there doing wrong,” he said. “The kids out there that wanna play football, I try to grab a hold of those kids and show them the right way to go.”
While visiting Tuesday with students at Carver Elementary in Coral Gables, Coley reflected on the days when this kind of success — if all goes well, he’s less than 12 months from a significant pro payday — seemed like a much longer shot.
He was a sophomore at Northeast High, playing for former coach Donnell Bennett, a former UM running back. Coley was late to practices. “Late to everything,” he said. Sometimes he would skip. He admits now, he simply didn’t care.
Bennett knew he had a future star on his hands — “I was in awe of the things he could do,” he said in a 2013 interview — but said Coley was “a knucklehead.” So he and Northeast’s principal sat him down for a forceful talk that Coley now calls “the craziest thing that ever happened to me.”
“I got a whooping,” Coley said. “That was a life-changer.
“I started showing up on time. Started caring. My principal and my coach really laid it down to me. I started showing up early to everything and being focused more.
“Now I have discipline. That right there changed me a lot.”
Coley finished his high school career as the top-rated wide receiver in his talent-rich state, became a freshman All-American and despite several injuries, has 1,464 yards and 11 touchdowns on 103 career catches. CBS Sports ranked him No. 5 among 2017 draft-eligible receivers.
He tested the draft waters after last year, but opted to come back when he was given a “stay in school” grade from the NFL Draft Advisory Board. He said the fact that it’s his last year in college — and last chance to impress pro teams — doesn’t make him work any harder.
He’s already working.
“Yeah, it don’t give me no motivation,” he said. “Just another chance to build something with my team, to continue building something at the University of Miami while I’m here and just giving it all.”