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Ronnie Stanley (78) (August 21, 2013)

SOUTH BEND -- He has run into Pawn Stars’ walking punch line Chumlee at a Drake concert and shrugged, has become numb to the bright lights of the Las Vegas Strip and has always looked at NBA rookie phenom Shabazz Muhammad as more friend than freak athlete.

It’s little wonder Notre Dame sophomore offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley is handling a dizzying rise to the top of the depth chart without much culture shock.

“I think the game comes pretty easy to him,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said of the 6-foot-6, 318-pound product of western college football talent hub Bishop Gorman High School in Vegas.

“He’s massive. He’s strong. He’s physical. He moves well, so he’s got the skill and long arms. He has all of those intangible traits and real traits of an offensive tackle that you’re looking for.”

That includes intelligence.

Stanley’s ascension has included heavy doses of working against All-America defensive end Stephon Tuitt and standout outside linebacker Prince Shembo in practice. When asked recently which one posed the more difficult challenge, Stanley politely balked.

“I don’t want them to hear (the answer),” he said with a broad smile.

Stanley plays with a smile and with seemingly no overwhelm. His opening to do so on a larger stage came early in training camp, when starting offensive right guard candidate Conor Hanratty was sidelined by a neck injury.

Instead of promoting another guard option, Kelly slid incumbent No. 1 right tackle Christian Lombard inside to guard. When Hanratty does get back to practicing, the composition of the line will come down to this: Does Stanley at tackle make the Irish better than Hanratty at guard? — because Lombard can stand out at either position.

“The right mind-set (is) probably the biggest thing,” Stanley said of pushing for a starting spot. “If I come out with the right mind-set every day, that I’m trying to get better, trying to do my best, then it’ll happen.”

For a long time. Stanley’s mind-set, though, was about basketball. He and Muhammad were childhood friends who both ended up at Bishop Gorman and were pivotal pieces of the school’s Class 4-A state hoops championship their senior year.

Muhammad, in fact, was rated the nation’s top prospect in the country coming out of Gorman. He played one year of college ball at UCLA before plunging into the NBA Draft this past summer. The Minnesota Timberwolves took him with the 14th pick overall in the first round.

“Basketball was my first love,” Stanley said.

But it didn’t always love him back.

“I fouled out of a lot of games,” he admitted.

Stanley’s father, Ron, a former college football player at Tuskegee University, introduced him to football, and it soon became a close-second love.

“I was hesitant at first,” Stanley said, “but I really like the physicalness of it. So I chose the route to go football.”

Choosing to go to Notre Dame took pushing away offers from the likes of USC, Florida State, Oklahoma and Oregon. Arkansas and Nebraska ended up being ND’s toughest competition, though.

“The weather is probably the biggest difference,” Stanley said of Vegas. “Other than that, I love Soutth Bend.”

Stanley will have three years after this one potentially to get used to it, since he was granted a medical redshirt year for 2012. He saw action in both the opener against Navy and three weeks later against Michigan, but because he played in three games or fewer and because those games occurred in the first half of the season, a chronic elbow condition leftover from high school helped him reset technically as a redshirt freshman.

Stanley ended up having surgery after the 2012 season, and it kept him out of contact for most of spring practice. The late glimpses the coaching staff did get of him, though, gave them pause to think about moving Lombard around even after the now-senior surged toward the end of 2012.

“I knew coming into college, no matter how old I was, I was going to be another asset to the team,” Stanley said. “That’s how I looked at it. I didn’t even care that I was a new player. I was just going to do my part to help the team out.”

He’s also trying to stump for an old friend back at Gorman, who would love to end up at Notre Dame, junior defensive back Nicco Fertitta. He’s the son of Ultimate Fighting Championship co-founder Lorenzo Fertitta.

“He’s a big donor to the school (Bishop Gorman),” Stanley said of the elder Fertitta, who made Forbes magazine’s top 400 list of richest Americans.

So far the 5-9, 160-pound Nicco has offers from Hawaii and Utah.

It’s conceivable Stanley’s presence at Notre Dame will open the door for Kelly to Gorman’s regular stockpile of FBS prospects with richer football pedigree as well.

But for now, it’s about Stanley making his own way.

“Ronnie’s athletic,” Shembo offered. “We’re going to continue to push him every day. He’s going to get better every day. He’s very athletic and has very quick feet. He’s always trying to get better. I like the way he’s looking.”