COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — In the 39 years John Cooper coached college football, he said Dimitrious Stanley could have started on any of the teams he coached — that’s how good he was.
In the hours after news broke that Stanley, 48, died Thursday, Cooper remembered his former player as a strong receiver and wonderful soul. Cooper coached the Buckeyes from 1988 to 2000. He knew Stanley well.
“I keep emphasizing as good of a player as he was, he was an even better person. No problems whatsoever on the field or off the field,” he said.
Raised in Worthington, Stanley played for the Buckeyes from 1993 to 1996, primarily as a receiver. He led OSU with 829 yards and eight touchdowns on 43 receptions during his last season before playing in the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League.
Cooper got to visit Stanley one final time in the hospital a few weeks ago.
“I knew he wasn’t going to last long. It’s almost a blessing. He had cancer. He was under hospice. When I got the call early this morning I knew exactly what happened,” said Cooper.
Cooper said he talked with Stanley about his favorite moments as a Buckeye. He recalled a huge kickoff return against Notre Dame to start the season that set them up for a big victory, and the 1996 Rose Bowl game where Stanley caught 5 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown.
“Dimitrious caught three passes in the drive down to score the winning touchdown with about 30 seconds left in the game. He caught a 72 yard touchdown pass in the third quarter of the Rose Bowl. I said it has to be one of those two,” Cooper said. “He said, ‘No, no, coach. It was the Wisconsin game.’ The ’96 Wisconsin game. He caught a 47 yard touchdown pass to beat Wisconsin here in the Shoe.”
Stanley was a natural leader, Cooper said — and he doesn’t recall the man ever missing a practice.
He also helped revolutionize recruiting for the football team. Cooper said he continued to help the Buckeyes recruit future players, showing them around Columbus and the university.
“We’re going to miss him. We loved him. I don’t know of anybody who played for us, was on his team that didn’t like him. I think that’s amazing. He was a man’s man,” Cooper said.
Stanley’s reach was much farther than just Ohio State football. He was a Thomas Worthington grad and active member of the community.
“Dimitrious was the type of guy that would just light up a room when you met him,” said Thomas Worthington football coach Michael Picetti. “He made everybody feel like he was their best friend.”
Picetti said Stanley is an inspiration to those around him and someone the current high schoolers can look up to.
Stanley even made a big game even more memorable for the team at Thomas Worthington. “Two years ago we played Upper Arlington and he actually came and gave the pre-game talk for us. Just to see him in the locker room and the excitement on his face in those couple minutes he was there,” said Picetti. “We were blessed obviously to have him come through here and set a very high standard for our young men to see.”
After his diagnosis in 2019, Stanley started a non-profit called Brave Men Inc. with the goal of spreading awareness for men’s health, early detection, and talking about health amongst peers.
Another local organization, African American Male Wellness Agency, fights for similar awareness. The agency’s vice president, Natalie Donnally, said the statistics are grim when it comes to cancer rates among Black men.
“African American men are 64% more likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer than their counterparts,” Donnally said. “It’s very alarming, which is why we really focus on the awareness and the screening aspect.”
With the goal of making that 64% go down, African American Male Wellness Agency President Kenny R. Hampton said screenings and early detection are important. When should you get tested?
“The time is now,” Hampton said. “We don’t have much time to waste.”