Stallings just finished a season in Italy, where his Bergamo Lions team won the Superbowl Italiano, and Tony was named the team’s MVP.
Stallings has had some fantastic moments — none better than his game-winning touchdown over Kentucky in the “lightning game” in 2000 or his winning Animal Planets “King of the Jungle” reality show competition in 2004.
But he’s also had some challenging times, and is such an expressive, open guy that I think his story was well worth updating.
You can read a great deal about Tony’s life on his website: t-stalls.com.
As usual, there was far more from Tony than I could fit into one column. In some ways, these kinds of profile stories were easier as a beat writer, because you could write a little longer.
Regardless, here are some items that didn’t make the story, but are worth having.
On whether he still has reptiles as pets (Sports Illustrated featured him during his playing days at U of L):
I sure do. And I have added a Chocolate Lab to the collection. But people still seem to be intrigued by my amazing run on King of the Jungle and the story behind it, and since it is a great story, I travel to different places with a few animals and tell the story of how I made it and what the whole experience was like. Kids love this, and so do their parents.
On whether he still keeps up with the Cardinals:
I sure do, and those guys have made me proud since I left. They have kept going what we started in 1998. Coach Steve Kragthorpe is a wonderful man and a good coach with a great wife behind him and a wonderful family. I had a chance to do a pregame chapel last year, and they went on to beat the N.C. State Wolfpack. We need to stay out of trouble off the field, and make trouble for the Big East ON THE FIELD.
On his desire to keep playing:
My drive to still play is really simple. It has two sides. The first is to erase any and all “bad” football experiences from the past. Football is a great game, and should be remembered for being just that. I was hampered by the memories of being challenged by a few college coaches for my Christian beliefs, and being cut from the CFL on the day of my 5-year wedding anniversary, and my wife having just landed in Canada to be with me. So I had to erase that. The other reason is simple. … I LOVE TO PLAY. And you cannot play forever. So I am driven to play for as long as I can do it at a high level. When it is gone, it is gone forever.
Finally, Tony twice mentioned fans in Louisville during our online correspondence.
I was embraced by the fans in Italy, and it reminded me my college days at Louisville. . . . I just want ot say that I am proud to call Louisville home. I love this great city for the love and support that they have shown me for the last 11 years.
Stallings has always been one of the good guys. I have a lot of respect for the way he has fought through some career disappointments that he has had, so this was a good story to get to tell.
One interesting aspect of the column was that I found out about Tony through his page at Facebook.