Sept. 24, 2012
By Jeremy Reid
NIU Media Relations Assistant Director
Growing up in Miami, football was a part of Demetrius Stone's life so early that he couldn't remember when exactly he started
"Football has pretty much always been a part of my family," Stone explains. I've been playing football for as long as I can remember. As far as organized football, I started when I was seven or eight. My uncle played a big part of getting me into it, we used to always play on the street and he probably was one of my biggest influences. My mother of course had a major influence. Growing up she went to every game she could make it to, she has even been to games up here."
Between his mother and his uncle, himself a former collegiate football player at Middle Tennessee State, Stone had the two major influences that would help lead him on a journey from South Florida, first to Kansas, and eventually to DeKalb.
Like most young players who are among the best athletes on their teams growing up, Stone did a little bit of everything. He played receiver, he played running back, and he even played tight end and linebacker. Stone figures that he probably played just about every skill position at one time or another. But it wasn't until his senior year of high school that Stone found his current position in the defensive backfield, a position he found as a result of a quick transition.
"In high school I played mostly on the offensive side of the ball," recalls Stone. "I really didn't start playing corner until my senior year. It's crazy because one of my teammates, one of my friends, got hurt and I had to go play DB. We found out that I was pretty good at it and it kind of stuck. It was something that came natural to me."
So natural that Stone earned honorable mention All-Dade County honors from the Miami Herald as a senior at American Senior High School. But with his high school career coming to a close, Stone had to make another transition, one that he wasn't completely sure of.
"I wasn't going to go to junior college," said Stone. "I had a coach in high school that I was extremely close to, L.J. Taylor, and one of my teammates was already going to Coffeyville Junior College. I hadn't decided what I was going to do but Coach Taylor really pushed me. He told me that I had nothing to lose by going to junior college, so I went there."
In junior college football in Kansas, nothing is guaranteed. With roster spots for just 12 out-of-state players, Stone had to work for everything he got at Coffeyville.
"My first year I was redshirted," Stone recalls. "So I had to go through that process which, especially at a JUCO it is not fun at all. The next year there was a lot of competition. You would compete in workouts, in running competitions, in 7-of-7's, in everything. It all came down to the last week before the first game, there were six of seven DB's left and they had to pick two of us, thank God I was one of the two."
Having survived the competition, Stone took advantage, helping Coffeyville to a 7-4 record and a North Star Bowl victory. Stone collected 51 total tackles and recorded a pair of interceptions for the Red Ravens, earning the team's Ethean Johnson Memorial Award, presented to a player that has great moral character and demonstrates an outstanding pride in being a Raven.
With a successful season under his belt, Stone began receiving scholarship offers from four-year schools.
"Towards the end of the season, I had a couple of offers, but I was waiting for something better," said Stone. "Then I received a call from Coach (Tom) Matukewicz. I came on my visit, there was a lot of snow, but that didn't really scare me off because when I met the coaches I knew it was a good program, and from that point I knew this was where I was going to be."
Stone enrolled at NIU for spring semester, another period of transition.
"It happens fast," Stone said. "As soon as you get here you jump right into classes, you only come a couple of days before classes begin. You jump into it and it is a little harder than coming in during the summer because you don't have as much time to get to know everybody and to feel everything out like you would during the summer. But, being in JUCO people come and go, so you get used to quick transitions. That really helped me understand the process and come in here and do what I have to do."
Stone also had the added benefit of coming in with someone who knew exactly what he was going through. Stone and former Huskie running back Jasmin Hopkins, who came to NIU from Fort Scott Community College in Kansas, bonded from day one in DeKalb.
"We were roommates from the time we got here until the time that he graduated, so he was one of my closest friends on the team," Stone says of their relationship. "We helped each other make that transition; when we first got here we had a lot to talk about because we played against each other. We definitely made the transition easier for each other having that similar background on the way to making it here."
On the field, Stone made the transition smoothly, seeing time in 11 games during the 2010 season. Stone made 20 tackles and ranked fourth on the team in pass breakups.
"It was a great feeling," says Stone of his first season at NIU. "It was a relief, from the long grind and the process I had to go through, to finally make it. But you still have to keep going and keep grinding because you don't want it to stop there."
The MAC Championship Game loss made that first season a bittersweet one for Stone, even more so because he had never experienced a championship at any level of football.
With that as his motivation, Stone came back even stronger in 2011, appearing in every game while making seven starts at free safety. He ranked eighth on the team in tackles with 55, intercepted one pass, broke up five more and recovered a fumble. But none of the individual numbers matter to him, the only thing that mattered was a championship.
"That first year was a heartbreak, to lose in that fashion," Stone said. "So to come back last year and finally get one, it felt really good to hold up a trophy and be called a champion."
As the 2011 season faded away, Stone was set for another transition, this time to a position of leadership in the Huskie secondary.
"At first it is a little different because you get used to being the younger guy," Stone explained. "But you start to notice yourself picking up some of the things from other people how you talk to people, how you present yourself, how everybody looks at you differently and you understand where the younger guys are coming from because you have been there."
While he isn't a vocal leader, Stone understands the importance of this role as a leader and passing down what he has learned to the next generation of Huskies.
"When I got here, Mike Sobol and Tracy Wilson, all those guys, were good leaders and people that we could go to when we didn't understand something. I try to reach out to all of the younger DBs. If they do something wrong I try to pull them aside and talk to them about the little things, like taking the right step or having your eyes in the right spot. I'm not really an up-front vocal leader, but I will pull guys aside and give them little suggestions here and there."
A criminal justice major, Stone hopes professional football will be in his future after graduation, but no matter what path lies ahead, he is almost certain to make a smooth transition.