Dunham cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. grew up with a ball in his hands -- whether it was a football, basketball, baseball or cheap convenience store ball.
But football seemed to take precedent.
“Well ever since I was younger, I loved football,” Stingley said. “I remember going in my front yard with my dad and just working on small stuff like spin moves, juke moves and hand-eye coordination.”
His father, Derek Sr., began to see how special his son was at age 4. During a flag football game, Stingley was playing defensive back and his dad said he would break on the ball to make an interception like a seasoned NFL veteran -- baiting the quarterback into throwing at him so he could pick the ball off.
Fast forward to June 10 when the then 14-year-old sophomore committed to LSU right after coach Les Miles offered him. He turned 15 on June 20.
After the 6-foot, 170-pounder for the Class of 2019 committed, he said he felt higher expectations from the Dunham coaches.
“They expect me to do everything perfect, and that goes for everybody watching me too,” Stingley said. “And they'll be waiting for the one time I mess up to bring it down on me.”
But Stingley’s dad doesn’t think there is pressure on his son. He has seen his son’s development up close.
“He's a perfectionist and doesn't even know it,” the elder Stingley said. “There's no panic in him. I know for a fact that he'll be a better player by the time he's on (LSU's) campus. He's having fun right now, but at the same time he wants to be the best at what he's doing. And there is definitely no pressure from me because of what I know about his athletic ability and how he approaches every situation in his life.”
Football runs in Stingley's blood, not only from his father, but his grandfather, Darryl Stingley, the former New England Patriots wide receiver who suffered a career-ending spinal-cord injury after a hit by the Oakland Raiders Hall of Fame safety Jack Tatum.
"So I keep my grandpa in my mind, because I’m keeping the legacy going," Stingley said.
Stingley kept playing despite the chance of injury.
“My dad always told me if I was going to play football,” Stingley said, "play it at 100 percent the right way and within the confines of the rules of the game. And not to worry what happened to (his grandfather). Just play hard, play fast and play to win.”
On the field, Stingley does not let the opposition get in his head.
“If someone trash talks or tries to get a cheap shot on me,” Stingley said, "I still play within the whistles and according to the rules. Another thing is that I lead by the way I play. If I’m having a good game, then I will spread the vibe to the other players.”
The biggest NFL influence on Stingley, he said, is Deion Sanders. He likes his style and ego. Stingley said Sanders always was the center of attention, but he knew how to handle it. But Stingley said his father is his biggest role model.
“My dad was the one who helped me grow as a player,” Stingley said. “I had others help me on the way, but he was the main one. Without that I would not be in this position right now at all.”
After a freshman at Dunham, Stingley had six interceptions, two punt returns for touchdowns and four receiving TDs.
He's looking for more as a sophomore.
“My goal now that the commitment process is over is to keep doing what I did to get the offer (from LSU) and start winning championships," he said.