The situation was new to Stokes, who waited in the shadows while the media relations staff found him a seat at the dais. When he eventually did sit down, Stokes squinted in the television lights, uncomfortably glancing out at the group of reporters in front of him.
But Stokes should start getting used to the attention. With the impending graduation of arguably the best class in the history of the UNC men's soccer program, he and his underclassmen teammates will soon be featured in the spotlight.
"This is like nothing I've never experienced," Stokes said. "I don't know. I really can't describe it. This is definitely a new thing to me."
The Tar Heels' soft-spoken sophomore defender came into his own on collegiate soccer's biggest stage, putting together two solid performances during the 2001 NCAA Men's College Cup en route to earning the tournament's most valuable defensive player award.
Along with junior Ryan Kneipper, the College Cup's most valuable offensive player, and a talented crew of forwards and midfielders, Stokes proved that there would be plenty of life in the future of the team despite the eventual graduation of seniors Danny Jackson, Chris Leitch, Michael Ueltschey and Noz Yamauchi.
But much of the Tar Heels' success during the past two years -- a period during which they are 42-7 -- can be credited to the type of player UNC coach Elmar Bolowich has recruited and the job his upperclassmen have done in assimilating the younger players into the program.
"I hope that our other players will follow the footsteps of these great guys," Bolowich said, motioning toward his seniors, "and lead the program from now on."
Stokes' development has been nearly two years in the making. A year ago, he joined a veteran defensive unit led by career starters Jackson and Leitch. Add in the goalkeeper, Ueltschey, and the Tar Heels had one of the most experienced back lines in the ACC.
And while it Stokes has had his share of ups and downs along the way, this weekend he established himself as a player capable of living up to the sizable potential of his 6-foot-2 frame.