When the Lufkin Panthers’ defense needs a big play, they don’t hesitate to turn to Christian Stafford.
As a two-year starter at cornerback, he doesn’t back down from any receiver. As an extra safety on dime packages, he makes sure the Panthers don’t miss a beat.
This past Friday night, he showed he isn’t afraid of contact either as a big-time hit against the Magnolia Bulldogs energized the sidelines.
It’s all in a night’s work for a defensive back who has made himself into one of the top players in a loaded Lufkin secondary.
“Whatever it is, I just want to be the best player I can be,” Stafford said. “It’s not in my nature to say much, so I’m going to lead by example.”
As one of the team’s silent leaders, Stafford’s play does the talking for him. He is one of the mainstays at cornerback for the Panthers.
Regardless of what he’s doing on the field, he only knows one way to do it.
“He’s going full speed every time he takes a snap, every time he gets a rep and every time he works out,” Lufkin head coach Todd Quick said. “He’s going to go all out whether anybody is watching or not. That’s what you want out of a football player.”
He has spent the last two years refining his skills both as a cover corner and on reads when he slides over to safety in certain scenarios.
Although he isn’t known for the big hit, he was ready when one came his way against Magnolia.
“That’s probably the best one I remember getting,” Stafford said. “I was surprised at first. That felt good to get that one.”
Stafford is now in his third year with the varsity with the last two being as a full-time starter. Prior to making the varsity, he would also play at receiver, a position he admits was hard to give up.
Now he has found a home in the Lufkin secondary.
“I liked playing receiver, but I think I’m better at corner,” Stafford. “Playing there helped make me the player I am now just because I know what they’re trying to do to me.”
That player is yet another versatile force on a defense that thrives off versatility. The Lufkin secondary has also been a driving force for a defense that allows just over 11 points per game.
“We knew coming into the year they were going to be the strength on our defense,” Quick said.
“Having someone as versatile as him is big for us because he allows you to keep your combination of the best 11 players on the field out there every play.”
Stafford said one of the players he watches on Sundays is Marshon Lattimore, a standout cornerback for the Saints. Lufkin’s senior said he sees some of himself in the New Orleans’ star, a teammate of former Panther Erik McCoy.
“He’s a very quiet player that plays sort of like me,” Stafford said. “I like watching him and seeing what else I can learn.”
Stafford has already learned plenty both on and off the field. In addition to what fans see on Friday nights, Quick said what he sees on the other days of the week is just as impressive.
“He’s a great young man that has been raised right,” Quick said. “You like to have players like him in your program.”