UNC Athletic Communications

Scott Stankavage Authors Life Lessons

Former Tar Heel quarterback shares his inspiring journey.

If the amount of energy you have in a day worked like a tank of gas, Scott Stankavage wakes up with about a quarter a tank because of his leukemia.

That means the former North Carolina quarterback (1980-83) has to make decisions on what’s important. No golf. No basketball. He retired from real estate. Instead, what he focuses on is spending the evening with his family.

“Having two 6-year-olds, a 5-year-old and a wife who’s very active, I want to be fully juiced up for dinner, for bath time and for night-time reading,” Stankavage says. “The rest of the day is sort of leading up to that but it brings me great joy to spend time with my family.”

It’s important to Stankavage to clarify that he’s not complaining. He was only given three years to live when he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia with deletion 17p in July 2013 but thanks to chemo and a new drug called ibrutinib, he’s kept his disease at bay.

“My family and I have adopted to what we call a new normal,” Stankavage says. “I’m not really dependable on a day-to-day basis in terms of (the work I can do) but I’m literally happy to be alive.”

While facing death, Stankavage has learned a lot about life. In addition to his illness, he and his family dealt with setbacks in his son’s football career. Shawn Stankavage, who starred at quarterback for Cardinal Gibbons High and now plays for Vanderbilt, suffered an ACL tear in the final game of his junior year and the process was challenging but enlightening.

During rehab, Scott ran into former Denver Broncos teammate and Howard football coach Steve Wilson, who offered to help. Wilson conducted quarterback clinics in the basement of the Stankavage house, which helped both father and son look at life and football differently.

“Most of it was about football but a lot of it is about controlling the controllables,” Scott says. “A lot of wisdom was being shared. It applied to me as much as Shawn.”

At the end of the training, Scott had 500 pages of notes. He’d always wanted to write a book but never thought he’d have anything meaningful to say. Looking over the pages, he thought the lessons were worth sharing.

Recently, the notes and anecdotes from his battle with leukemia were turned into the book The QB Mentor.

“It covers all the issues: divorce, injury, cancer, winning and losing, being under recruited, disappointment,” Scott says. “How do you handle those? That’s what it’s meant to be, an encouraging and inspiring story. Here’s how we did it. We’re still doing it.”

Scott says he enjoyed putting the book together and has been pleased with the response so far.

“(One reader) emailed me at 3:30 a.m. and he said he started reading at 10:30 p.m. and couldn’t stop,” Stankavage says. “That just tickled me.”

The star of the book, Shawn, is entering his redshirt sophomore season at Vanderbilt. While he’s currently third on the depth chart, the Commodores played multiple quarterbacks the past two years, so he might get a shot.

Either way, his dad is happy and proud. If there’s one thing the last three years taught him, it’s perspective. Scott was recently surprised by his whole family at their beach house for July 4th. He says it was a weekend he’ll never forget.

“I sat there with a big umbrella on and sunscreen and a long sleeve shirt and the biggest smile from my heart to my ears,” Scott says. “It was such a glorious July 4th. To be surrounded by family like that, it was just spectacular.”


Sue Walsh, Shawn Stankavage, Scott Stankavage, Steve Wilson


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