Becoming Stanford's No. 1 receiver has been a long road for Canadian Elic Ayomanor

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Elic Ayomanor’s coming-out party against Colorado made headlines across North America but his path to becoming the Stanford Cardinal’s top receiver has been a long, twisting one.

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It began with leaving Medicine Hat, Alta., as a teenager to attend high school in the U.S. But it also has involved overcoming adversity, including a serious knee injury that sidelined Ayomanor for his entire freshman campaign.

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“It’s definitely been a long journey,” Ayomanor said during a telephone interview. “When you’re chasing your dreams and what you want to do in life, you’re going to have to persevere in some sense and so it’s been that for me.

“I always thought I could compete with guys in the U.S. and end up going to a Division I school. I didn’t have an active plan on how I was going to do that but I always felt I could play with them.”

The six-foot-two, 210-pound Ayomanor has 36 catches for 591 yards and four TDs for Stanford (2-5 overall, 1-4 Pac-12). On Oct. 13., the 23-year-old had 13 receptions for a school-record 294 yards and three TDs as the Cardinal rallied for a thrilling 46-43 overtime road victory over Colorado.

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Ayomanor anchored Stanford’s comeback from a 29-0 halftime deficit. All of his catches came in the second half and overtime.

Two TD catches covered 97 and 60 yards but it was his 30-yard scoring grab that drew the most attention. With Stanford trailing 43-36 in the first overtime, Ayomanor reached around Colorado’s Travis Hunter and pinned the ball against Hunter’s helmet while running backwards into the end zone for a game-tying score.

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Joshua Karty’s field goal in the second overtime capped Stanford’s largest comeback win in its 103-year history.

“It was a wonderful catch but pretty much every receiver at Stanford at one time or another I’ve seen personally make that type of catch in practice,” Ayomanor said modestly. “It honestly could’ve been anybody else in that position on that play, I just happened to be the one and I managed to capitalize on it but any of my teammates could’ve as well.”

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Last weekend Ayomanor had eight catches for a game-high 90 yards in a 42-7 road loss to No. 25 UCLA. Matters don’t get any easier for Stanford, which hosts fifth-ranked Washington (7-0 overall, 5-0 Pac-12) on Saturday.

But Ayomanor is thankful to just be on the field. He suffered a season-ending knee injury (torn ACL, MCL and meniscus) in practice before Stanford’s 41-10 opening win over Colgate.

“There was a lot of ups and downs through that but you need a supporting cast, you can’t recover from that on your own,” he said.” I think the (Stanford) strength staff is wonderful, they’ve taken my body to a whole new level … and helped get me back to playing very fast, which is awesome.

“The rehab just kind of teaches you how much you really want your goals and really love the game. I also got injured my senior year (of high school) then there was COVID so it’s really been like three years since I’ve played a season of football. I just try to live in every moment on the practice field and really enjoy my time while I still have it.”

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Ayomanor began his American high school career at The Peddie School in Hightstown, N.J. But uncertainty regarding the program’s future prompted Ayomanor to transfer to Deerfield Academy in Deerfield, Mass. after one year.

Ayomanor attracted plenty of NCAA interest at Deerfield. He received offers from such schools as Arizona, Yale, Princeton, Iowa, Tennessee and Notre Dame but said Stanford was always his first choice.

“My mom and I talked it through regarding my goals and agreed I wanted to be able to play at a school that would give me an opportunity at the NFL,” Ayomanor said. “However, if I got hurt or something happened where I couldn’t play football anymore I still wanted to get a very high-level education.

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“To me, Stanford is the best school in America to do that at. I love it here.”

So when David Shaw — who recruited Ayomanor — resigned as head coach after last season, Ayomanor never considered leaving Stanford.

“One thing I knew when I was choosing a school was often these coaching jobs can be very volatile,” Ayomanor said. “As much as the decision was based upon coaching somewhat, I was also at a place where even if there was going to be a coaching change in the future, I was still going to be happy with where I was at.”

Troy Taylor, who guided Sacramento State to a 30-8 record over four seasons, is in his first season as Shaw’s successor.

“Coach Taylor demands a lot from us but in a very loving, caring way,” Ayomanor said. “He demands a lot because he knows we have a high ceiling and I think he often sees something in us that we might not necessarily see at the present time.”

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Ayomanor said he has no trouble combining classroom responsibilities with football. It’s all about being organized.

“Being a student-athlete is all about time management and being very disciplined with your time,” he said. “When you must do something, you do it when you have to.

“If you’re a good student you’re an organized person and if you’re an organized person you have all the tools to be become good at football. I think it’s being a very balanced man overall.”

Ayomanor hasn’t yet declared a major but is leaning toward computer science.

“I think you can do many things within computer science,” he said. “I don’t exactly know what I’m going to end up doing with it but it’s something I really enjoy.”

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Ayomanor’s top football goal is playing professionally, most notably in the NFL. But if going to the next level means playing in Canada, Ayomanor would embrace that opportunity.

“I want to play in the NFL, I’ve always wanted to play in the NFL and I think our coaches expect us to want to play in the NFL,” he said. “My ultimate goal is to play at the highest level … if an opportunity like that (CFL) presents itself, I’m not going to look past it because it’s the game I love, not the attention or fame.”

When Ayomanor was attending high school in the U.S., he looked up to the likes John Metchie III, Josh Palmer and Chuba Hubbard, Canadians who were playing in the NCAA before embarking on NFL careers. Now, Ayomanor wants to provide Canadian youth the same inspiration Metchie III, Palmer and Hubbard gave him.

“Hopefully I can be a role model to kids in Canada now and show them anything is possible,” Ayomanor said.

“If I can do it and people before me have done it, there’s nothing that’s going to stop them from doing it in the future.”

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