Receiver takes unique route
P.J. Stone overcomes obstacles to become KSU football program’s first graduate
KENNESAW, Ga. (May 18, 2016) — Prentice “P.J.” Stone aspires to become a high school athletics director. He already has been a leader of student-athletes, as one of only four seniors on Kennesaw State University’s inaugural football team.
Stone’s next leadership role will be as a teacher and assistant football coach at Campbell High School in Smyrna. He became the first member of the upstart Kennesaw State football program to graduate, receiving his bachelor’s degree in exercise science during last week’s spring commencement ceremonies.
“It meant a lot to be part of this football program and make history for this University,” Stone said.
Stone made the most of his one season at Kennesaw State, tying for second on the team in pass receptions as a starting wide receiver and averaging nearly 22 yards per return as the Owls’ primary kick returner. He excelled off the field as well, earning Big South Conference All-Academic honors and graduating magna cum laude.
“P.J. was a great role model for our team, with us having so many young players,” KSU head coach Brian Bohannon said. “He will leave a legacy here, not only for what he did on Saturdays but for leading by example and doing things the right way.”
Stone took an unconventional route to Kennesaw State. He was an honors student and a football, basketball and track star at Sprayberry High School in Marietta, but his home life was a different story. Stone legally emancipated himself from his parents as a high school junior.
Stone said he lived house-to-house with different people before he was adopted by Davana Silva, who had been one of his teachers at Sprayberry. He credits Silva – whom he calls “Mom” – with being a stabilizing force in his life and his inspiration to attend college.
“She always made sure that I had what I needed, but she never wanted to take credit for anything,” Stone said. “She has been a big part of my life just in a small amount of years.”
Stone eventually reconciled with his biological parents, but his father, Prentice Stone Sr., died from cancer this past October. The elder Stone was “a big football fan,” according to his son, and was able to see P.J. play college football once before he died. Though Prentice Sr. was sick and undergoing treatment, he watched at Fifth Third Bank Stadium as P.J. caught a 10-yard pass and returned a kickoff 35 yards in Kennesaw State’s 18-10 win over Shorter on Sept. 19.
“P.J. has had to overcome one thing after another, and it’s made him such a strong person. That’s what is going to make him so successful,” Bohannon said. “He has set goals, and he will do whatever he says he’s going to do.”
Stone signed to play football at Eastern Kentucky University out of high school, but a pair of surgeries sidelined him from ever playing a game there. In fact, following his senior season at Sprayberry in 2010, Stone didn’t play in another football game until he took the field for the Owls last year.
He wasn’t sure he would play football after he transferred to Kennesaw State in 2014, but that changed after he happened to run into Bohannon one day at the KSU Convocation Center. Bohannon, who as a Georgia Tech assistant coach had recruited Stone, encouraged him to try out for Kennesaw State’s new team.
“After that, signs just kept pointing to it,” Stone said. “I said, ‘I’m going for it.’”
Stone made the team, and played a big part in the Owls’ memorable first season. He made history again last week as the football program’s first graduate.
Stone had a big crowd of family and friends at his graduation ceremony, including his “two moms” – his biological mother and adoptive mother. The one person missing was his father, but Prentice Sr. was ever-present in P.J.’s thoughts.
“I’m happy I graduated, but I’m happy that I could do it for him,” Stone said. “It’s one thing he always wanted to see me do, and he was months away from it. I know he’s really proud now.”
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.