Munnerlyn remembers college battles with Stafford

CHARLOTTE – Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford go way back.

They first faced each other when both were freshmen in 2006 – Munnerlyn at South Carolina and Stafford at Georgia.

“He was one of the best quarterbacks in college,” said Munnerlyn, whose Gamecocks won two of three meetings against Stafford’s Bulldogs. “He could shred the ball; he could run. He had that Brett Favre mentality.”

This weekend, Munnerlyn and Stafford will meet for the eighth time as pros with Stafford holding an edge, 5-2. Last season, when Munnerlyn was in Minnesota, he was a victim of Stafford’s defining trait – an uncanny ability to pull off fourth-quarter comebacks.

“He’s got that clutch gene,” Munnerlyn said of Stafford, who led late rallies to sweep the Vikings in 2016. “He doesn’t panic, he just keeps working, it seems like it clicks and they win the game.”

But when I caught up with Munnerlyn on Thursday, I wanted to chat about those days in college and what he still remembers about facing Stafford. 

“My third year,” Munnerlyn recalled, “we lost, but I sacked him twice.”

Visual proof here and here

“My second year we went down to Georgia and beat them,” Munnerlyn continued. “I had a pretty good game. I was playing their number one receiver – it was Sean Bailey at the time – I had like three or four breakups. 

“Then, the game-winning interception, our linebacker got it. (Stafford) threw it up for a deep ball, I tipped it, it hit my shoe and popped up in our linebacker’s hands for an interception.”

Visual proof

But this is the point in the interview when Munnerlyn’s locker room neighbor, linebacker Thomas Davis, interjected.

Munnerlyn: “I tapped the ball, it hit my shoe …”

Davis: “Cause you can’t catch? That’s why you had to tap the ball, right? You can’t catch because you’re too short?”

CM: “We went down to Athens and beat them.”

TD: “How many times did I lose to y’all?”

(Answer: 0. Davis went 3-0 against South Carolina when he was at Georgia from 2002-04.) 

CM: “I don’t have anything to do with that.”

TD: “Who won last year?

(Answer: Georgia) 

TD: “Who’s going to win this year?” 

(silence)

TD: “Did you hear that silence?”

CM, again remembering back to 2007: “They were ranked like No. 6 in the nation.” 

(Georgia was No. 11 at the time, but still … )  

CM: “We took their soul out. Then, guess what? After the game, the craziest thing about it is after the game we got back to Columbia, we got in our cars and we drove down there to their houses just to talk trash.”

TD: “Cause you wanted to hang out with us, huh? You wanted to be at a real school for a change! ‘I wanted to go to Georgia!’”

And with that, Davis walked away, leaving Munnerlyn shaking his head before sharing a thought about the Stafford he’ll see on Sunday:

“He’s playing well. He’s doing a great job spreading the ball to all his receivers and they’re making plays.”

Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn and Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford go way back. 

They first faced each other when they were freshmen in 2006 – Munnerlyn at South Carolina and Stafford at Georgia. 

“He was one of the best quarterbacks in college,” said Munnerlyn, whose Gamecocks won two of three meetings against Stafford’s Bulldogs. “He could shred the ball; he could run. He had that Brett Favre mentality.” 

This weekend, Munnerlyn and Stafford will meet for the eighth times as pros with Stafford again holding an edge, 5-2. Last season, when Munnerlyn was in Minnesota, he was a victim of Stafford’s defining trait – an uncanny ability to pull off fourth-quarter comebacks. 

“He’s got that clutch gene,” Munnerlyn said of Stafford, who led late rallies to sweep the Vikings in 2016. “He doesn’t panic, he just keeps working, it seems like it clicks and they win the game.”

But when I caught up with Munnerlyn on Thursday, I wanted to chat about those days in college and what he still remembers about facing Stafford. 

“My third year,” Munnerlyn recalled, “we lost, but I sacked him twice.” 

Visual proof here and here. 

“My second year we went down to Georgia and beat them,” Munnerlyn continued. “I had a pretty good game. I was playing their number one receiver – it was Sean Bailey at the time – I had like three or four breakups. 

“Then, the game-winning interception, our linebacker got it. (Stafford) threw it up for a deep ball, I tipped it, it hit my shoe and popped up in our linebacker’s hands for an interception.” 

Visual proof. 

But this is the point in the interview when Munnerlyn’s locker room neighbor, linebacker Thomas Davis, interjected. 

Munnerlyn: “I tapped the ball, it hit my shoe … “ 

Davis: “Cause you can’t catch? That’s why you had to tap the ball, right? You can’t catch because you’re too short?” 

CM: “We went down to Athens and beat them.” 

TD: “How many times did I lose to y’all?”

(Answer: 0. Davis went 3-0 against South Carolina when he was at Georgia from 2002-04.) 

CM: “I don’t have anything to do with that.”

TD: “Who won last year? (Answer: Georgia) 

TD: “Who’s going to win this year?” 

(silence)

TD: “Did you hear that silence?”

CM, again remembering back to 2007: “They were ranked like No. 6 in the nation.” 

(Georgia was No. 11 at the time, but still … )  

CM: “We took their soul out. Then, guess what? After the game, the craziest thing about it is after the game we got back to Columbia, we got in our cars and we drove down there to their houses just to talk trash.”

TD: “Cause you wanted to hang out with us, huh? You wanted to be at a real school for a change! ‘I wanted to go to Georgia!’”

And with that, Davis walked away, leaving Munnerlyn shaking his head before sharing a thought about the Stafford he’ll see on Sunday:

“He’s playing well. He’s doing a great job spreading the ball to all his receivers and they’re making plays.”

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