MENOMONIE — Nate Stanley has a lot more free time on his hands these days. What better way to spend it, he figured, than by giving back to the generation looking to follow in his footsteps?
The Minnesota Vikings quarterback is biding his time on injured reserve by working with the Menomonie football program, coaching players on the same field where he carved defenses up a handful of years ago. He might not be able to play football right now, but that doesn’t mean he has to stay away from the turf.
“I don’t really have much going on during the day, so I figured I should come help these guys out, really make use of my time,” Stanley said. “It’s been pretty cool. It’s definitely awesome to come back to where I played and help the guys have some of the same experiences I had.”
The benefits work both ways. Stanley gets to keep his mind in the game, and the Mustangs get to learn from somebody who’s been at the highest level.
“It’s pretty awesome having an NFL quarterback working with your quarterbacks and offense,” Menomonie coach Mike Sinz said.
“And with how high-character of a young man he is, our kids are very fortunate to have a guy like that around.”
Stanley suffered a lower back injury during the preseason that prevented him from playing in any of the Vikings’ tune-up games. Minnesota waived the 24-year-old quarterback with an injury designation at the end of preseason, meaning he was placed on injured reserve after clearing waivers.
With his season brought to a premature end, Stanley returned home to Menomonie. He wanted to stay involved in football in some capacity, and he had natural ties to the Chippewa Valley. Stanley was the Mustangs’ signal caller from 2013 to 2015, setting multiple school passing records during his time there. His father is a longtime assistant at Menomonie too, and he figured the Mustangs would have no problem welcoming him aboard.
“All of a sudden he was in Menomonie, and it was like a no-brainer,” Sinz said. “We’ve got to get this guy to be part of our coaching staff.”
Stanley brings a wealth of experience and an analytical eye to the Mustangs’ sideline. After starring at the school, he went on to play in the Big Ten with Iowa, where he became one of the most successful quarterbacks the Hawkeyes have ever had. He ranks second in Iowa history in both career passing touchdowns and passing yards. His play resulted in his name being called in the seventh round of the 2020 NFL draft.
It takes an advanced feel for the game to reach the NFL, and now Stanley can share his perspective with the Mustangs.
“I’ve got a little bit of insight after playing at Iowa and in the NFL for a couple of years now, dealing with guys who are the best of the best in football,” Stanley said. “It’s really awesome to bring their perspectives and things I’ve learned to these guys here.”
It doesn’t only help the players either. It adds to the coaching staff’s collective ability too.
“When you play at a Big Ten school and then in the NFL, you’re pretty advanced scheme-wise,” Sinz said. “Obviously high school is a different level, but he’s just such a smart coach that he can pick up on little things here and there. It’s huge.”
While the Mustangs are traditionally one of the state’s top programs, the expertise Stanley brings to the table only adds to the level of play. Menomonie won a share of the Big Rivers Conference title this fall and is a No. 2 seed in the Division 2 playoffs.
As he’s been assisting the Mustangs, Stanley’s been working his way back from his injury. He had surgery to fix some bulging discs in his back and is in the process of rehabbing it now.
The injury put a damper on the quarterback’s second season in the NFL. After getting drafted, Stanley spent last season on Minnesota’s practice squad. As he looked to seize a bigger role this preseason, setbacks in the injury department made for a frustrating sophomore campaign.
“Injuries happen. It’s unfortunate,” Stanley said. “There’s a bigger plan for everything and I’m just trying to keep that in perspective. Being around football is good for my competitive spirit right now, even if I can’t play. It definitely gives me encouragement for the rehab process and making sure I’m ready to play when the opportunity comes.”