If you were to open the Louisiana record books and look under all things to do with wide receiver, you would find the name of one man. This one man holds the record for career receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. He sounds like quite the receiver doesn’t he?
Well that receiver is one Brandon Stokley, Louisiana’s number 14 that you can find at Cajun Field along with Brian Mitchell’s and Jake Delhomme’s.
Stokley, unlike the three players I have written about before, was not born in Louisiana. Instead when he was born on June 23, 1976, in the town of Blacksburg, Virginia. Now that would be because his father, Nelson Stokley, was the quarterbacks coach for Virginia Tech at the time.
Brandon would eventually make his way to Lafayette when his father took the head coaching job for the University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1986.
He would attend Comeaux High School in Lafayette where he would play just about every sport offered by the school. By his senior year he was a letterman in football, basketball and baseball and won All-Districts honors in all three for good measure.
Following graduation in the spring of 1995 he would attend USL that fall playing wide receiver for the football team. As a freshman he racked up his first of three 1,000 yard seasons as he caught 75 receptions for 1,121 yards, hauling in 9 touchdowns as well.
His sophomore season would see another 1,000 yard season and the greatest upset in Louisiana history when the Cajuns took down the Texas A&M Aggies. Stokley would catch what would eventually be the game winning touchdown from quarterback Jake Delhomme.
Following his senior season where he caught 65 receptions for 1,173 yards and 8 touchdowns, Stokley would declare for the 1999 NFL Draft. He would finish his college career as the first Division I-A player to average 100 receiving yards or more per game for an entire four year career.
Unlike his former teammate Jake Delhomme who went undrafted two years prior, Stokley was taken in the 4th round of the draft by the Baltimore Ravens. And where did the Ravens place their newly required six foot wide receiver? In the slot of course.
It would be from the slot that Stokley would play his entire NFL career eventually earning the nickname “The Slot Machine.”
During Stokley’s second season with the Ravens he would help them go on to play in Super Bowl XXXV against the New York Giants. Stokley would catch the first touchdown of the game in the first quarter, taking a ball thrown from Ravens’ quarterback Trent Dilfer 32 yards to the house.
The Ravens would go on to win the game and their first ever Super Bowl, though they would not make it back there during the next few years.
Following the 2002 season, Stokley would sign with the Indianapolis Colts in 2003 where he would get to play with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning.
Though the 2003 season was not anything great for Stokley, his 2004 season would go on to be the best he would have in the NFL.
During the ‘04 season, Stokley would catch a career high 68 receptions for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns. One of those touchdowns would be Manning’s 49th touchdown of the season and the one that broke Dan Marino’s record of 48 touchdowns in a season.
The touchdown catch also marked the 2004 Colts as the first team in NFL history to have three receivers catch 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. The other two receivers were Reggie Wayne and Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison.
Despite such an amazing performance by the Colts in the 2004 season they would go on to lose in the divisional round to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
Stokley’s remaining seasons with the Colts were injury ridden and during the Colts 2006 Super Bowl run, he would only play in four games.
Following that season Stokley would move west to Colorado where he would sign a three year contract with the Denver Broncos. His time with the Broncos, while nothing crazy statistically, did produce some memorable moments.
One such moment can be found in the introduction to Madden NFL 11, which is the Madden with Drew Brees on the cover. During the season opener to the 2009 season against the Cincinnati Bengals, Stokley caught a tipped pass intended for another teammate which he would take in for a touchdown.
The interesting part about that touchdown was that he would run it for 82 yards, then, at the five yard line he would run to the complete opposite side of the field to kill the clock before running it in.
This would be the game winning touchdown, as all of this happened in the last 28 seconds of the game and would end the game with a score of 12–7, securing the Broncos first win of the season.
Right before the 2010 season the Broncos would release Stokley. He would then just go further west, and north, to Seattle signing with the Seattle Seahawks.
It would be during the Seahawks unlikely playoff run that Stokley would make himself most known. During the Wild Card round against the New Orleans Saints, he would catch four passes for 73 yards and a touchdown(the game would famously end with running back Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Quake” run).
Stokley would go on to have another good showing in Seattle’s divisional round loss against the Chicago Bears where he would catch eight passes for 86 yards including another touchdown.
He would be cut by the Seahawks in 2011, and why he showed interest in signing with the Washington Redskins, would instead sign with the New York Giants on Sept. 15. He would then go on to be cut less than a month later on Oct. 4 after only catching one pass.
Stokley’s last good season would come with the Broncos who would once again sign Stokley in April of 2012 to a one year deal, reuniting him with his old Colts teammate Peyton Manning.
With “The Sheriff” throwing him the ball, Stokley would catch 45 passes for 544 yards and five touchdowns. Following the season his contract ended and he would once again sign with the Ravens in 2013 who were just coming off of their Super Bowl XLVII win against the San Francisco 49ers.
The team would, and follow me here, cut Stokley on Oct. 5, then they would resign him three days later on Oct. 8. He would then suffer a concussion against the Minnesota Vikings in week 14 ending his season. He would retire on Dec. 26 of that year, ending his football career.
While Brandon Stokley was never considered the greatest receiver of his time, his abilities were valued by the teams he played for and respected by the guys he played with. He might never find a place in Canton, Ohio but he’ll forever be remembered by those who come into Cajun Field to watch the Cajuns fight for victory.