Brandon Bridge knew what Josh Stanford was capable of when the Riders chose the Canadian receiver in the 2016 CFL Draft.
— Brandon Bridge (@Air_Canada_7) May 10, 2016
Stanford has been proving his childhood friend correct in 2018, especially during the last meeting against Hamilton.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) July 6, 2018
Bridge and Stanford connected for a spectacular 29-yard throw and catch that set up the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter which made Saskatchewan a winner 18-13.
The quarterback-receiver tandem were as tight as brothers growing up, starring for St. Marcellinus High School in Mississauga, ON. Both went on to garner NCAA scholarships, Bridge Alcorn State and then South Alabama, Stanford Virginia Tech and then Kansas.
Stanford started 12 games in 2013 for the Hokies, setting freshman records with 40 catches for 640 yards. Consistent production and two 100-yard performances against Boston College and Miami highlighted Stanford’s initial foray into major American university and college football.
That flash of talent was rare for a freshman, especially from Canada. However, the production fell in 2014 and he left the team to take care of personal issues and eventually transferred to the University of Kansas.
Stanford left university after the 2015 season and attended the 2016 CFL Combine as the top-rated receiver by some teams. That setting didn’t suit Stanford well and as a result, his stock plummeted. After that evaluation weekend in Toronto, Saskatchewan did plenty of background research on the talented pass catcher, the Riders chose him in the eighth round, 62nd overall.
“Pretty close to the complete package,” one scout said when evaluating Stanford.
“Great after the catch, strong and well-built. He’s got good balance and vision and is hard to get on the ground.”
Chris Jones believed that if the proper environment was provided for Stanford he could thrive. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound receiver recorded three catches for 59 yards as a CFL rookie, but the Riders released Stanford in June 2017. He stayed in shape and Jones brought him back four months later to finish the 2017 season on the Riders roster.
Another full training camp displayed the consistency Saskatchewan was seeking from Stanford. The 23-year-old played well enough for the Riders to feel comfortable letting trusted veteran national Rob Bagg go. Stanford has started all four games in 2018 and made a reception in every outing, the most noteworthy grab of the Riders season to date put the team back to .500 at 2-2.
When Jones explained training camp cuts he mentioned football being a young man’s game as the reason for releasing some veterans. Stanford has flashed the tantalizing ability put on film at Virginia Tech and the playmaking ability Bridge was sure he possessed.