This One's for You, Grandma Marsha

Quick and elusive like a pond skipper on skates, this freshman running back's motivation for success is just a stone's throw away from his heart.

Thomas Stancil, a diminutive 5-8, 180-pounder who is expected to see significant playing time for the first time against Air Force on Saturday, confides his pillar of strength and the reason he chose BYU was his grandmother, Marsha Stancil.

"The whole reason for coming out here (BYU) was for my grandmother, Marsha Stancil. She wanted to see me come to college."

Despite her enduring health problems, Marsha never let her ailing body get in the way of making sure her grandson knew his potential and exactly how she felt for him – not only in word, but also in deed.

"My grandmother is a huge motivation for me because she struggled so much in life, and yet she still goes on. She made it to almost all my games in high school, even though she was sickly. That's my biggest motivation to stay in school and to stay here. Not being LDS is real hard to be here, but I know that she wants me here and that's why I'm staying here."

Attending school in Provo, Utah, has its challenges for young non-LDS black athletes who sometimes feel out of place with the unfamiliar culture of a predominant LDS population. Yet Stancil sees it as a positive aspect that will allow him to achieve his personal goals.

"There's no pressure here, but I know it's the right thing and she wants me to succeed. There' s no use for me to go somewhere where I'm going to be distracted by all types of parties and girls and everything else, when I can just stay here and have two things to focus on, football and school. This will definitely make me a better person."

Thinking of his family situation back home and the inspiration of an aging grandmother, Stancil paused for a moment to reflect on how important it is for him to take full advantage of his experience while at BYU.

"I don't want to do something little. I'm here at this school and I've been put down a lot back home; a lot of people look to me to fail. I'm looking to do something bigger than just get a degree."

A future law degree at BYU is a goal that drives and excites him, "especially for me to come, where I came from, to get a degree like that … Oh man!

"My major is undeclared right now, but I think I'm going to be doing a history major. Hopefully my girlfriend should be coming down here, so I would like to do it (law degree) here if we end up getting married later on down the line. If not, then maybe I will go back home," he said.

One thing Stancil is certain of is his conviction that BYU provides the best environment to accomplish the arduous task of realizing his dream of a law degree.

"This is not a bad place, especially to get your studies done, because there's not a whole lot to do out here. This would be the right place to do law school if I was going to do anything. It keeps you out of trouble. Down here, you've got to go looking for trouble if you want to get into trouble," said Stancil.

With injuries to running back Marcus Whalen, fullback Taufui Vakapuna and Reynaldo Brathwaite, BYU head coach Gary Crowton is counting on Stancil to step in shine as a Cougar running back. One person who will be watching, hoping and praying hardest for him to have a good game is none other than his doting grandmother from her home in Bakersfield, California.

"Basically, she wanted to see me play one game. I don't know how much longer she's got. She's getting older now and has a couple of health problems."

"I'm not really worried about getting on the field. I practice hard out there every day so if I do get my chance, I'm going to make it happen," said Stancil.

In a complex passing offense, the running backs are responsible for a number of checks and reads. The success of Cougar running backs often relies on whether or not he has the knowledge to pick up constant variables and the confidence to make the correct adjustments at game speed in a fraction of a second.

"You gotta make sure the Mike or the Sam (substitute names for blitzing linebackers or other defensive players) doesn't come. If they don't come, you gotta get out there immediately. It's so fast; it's like Mike, Sam and you're out. There's no time to sit there and think, okay there's Mike and okay, there's Sam over there, okay I'm out. You gotta be fast too so you can get out on your rout and spread the defense. That all comes with experience," said Stancil.

Confidence is not a character trait lacking in the heart of this freshman running back. "Experience is all I need," said Stancil. "Basically, as far as me running the ball, I probably can run with all our backs, but picking up protection, scanning and getting out on my routs where I'm supposed to be will come with experience."

Stancil says he runs "around a 4.35" in the forty. Stancil was recruited as a slashing back with the possibility of handling kick returns in the future. In BYU's pass happy offense, running backs are responsible for protecting the quarterback by making reads and picking up would-be blitzers.

"I've been practicing hard and they've been telling me I'm doing good out there," he said. "As a matter of fact, Crowton pulled me off to the side yesterday and he was telling me that the only thing he's worried about is my blocking.

"One reason I wasn't recruited big out of high school was because of my blocking, I guess. I've never had a chance to block. If I never get a chance to block, how is anybody ever going to know if I can or can't block. I'm just waiting for my chance to get in there and show everybody that I can block. I'm going to sacrifice it all if I do get in there," Stancil pledged.

Marsha Stancil would expect nothing less.

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