Marion Grice in action (Photo: ASU)
Rushing for 1,000 yards and scoring 18 touchdowns will get you a lot of attention.
It may put you in striking distance of some hallowed school records. It may get you a spot on the Maxwell and Doak Walker Award watch lists. It may obscure— unintentionally, of course—your talented backfield mates.
Arizona State senior running back Cameron Marshall is very deserving of all the recognition he is finally receiving after his standout 2011 season. What backfield attention he didn't receive this offseason went to the arrival of heralded local recruit D.J. Foster and the recovery and return of Deantre Lewis.
That left Marion Grice somewhat in the margins, despite coming to ASU this summer as the top-ranked junior college running back.
Grice spent two seasons at Blinn College in Texas, rushing for 2,221 yards and 33 touchdowns. A member of the 2012 recruiting class, he joined the Sun Devils in time for fall camp and impressed the coaching staff with his blend of speed and power. That earned him a spot in the team's rotation, not an easy feat in such a talented position group.
Instead of being nervous or intimidated by his FBS debut this past Thursday, the soft-spoken Grice kept his mind focused on the task at hand as he ran onto the field for his first action in the second quarter.
"Just come out and execute," said Grice on his thoughts at that time. "We need to come out and execute as a team, to put in all the hard work and everything from practice."
His first carry came on a second and goal from the NAU one-yard line, but a missed block resulted in no gain. However, the 6-foot, 200-pound Grice would not be denied a second time, as he barrelled ahead on the next play for his first Sun Devil touchdown. Despite being a presumably special moment, Grice merely tossed the ball to the referee and jogged off the field.
"Coach told me to act like I've been there before, so that's what I do."
His understated reaction would prove to be prescient, as tt wouldn't be too long until scoring touchdowns became routine for Grice.
In the second half, Grice shouldered the load for the Sun Devil offense. A big reason for that were the fumbles by Marshall and Foster, but Grice says that that is standard operating procedure.
"If you fumble as a running back, you will be sitting down."
Grice held onto the ball, stayed in the line-up, and produced. He finished the night with 107 yards and three touchdowns. Not a bad debut, right?
It was to Grice.
"I gotta get better. I wasn't that good."
That statement hints at the talent and potential that Grice has in this Sun Devil offense. The team will need him to continue his production against a very formidable Illinois defense this Saturday.
Last season, the Illini ranked seventh in the nation in total defense, and last week they held Western Michigan to -6 yards rushing. Getting to half of the 305 yards that Grice and the ground game produced against NAU will be a difficult task for ASU, yet one that will prove to be essential in order for ASU to move to 2-0.
Neither the Illini nor the success in the opener has done nothing to change Grice's approach. No matter what, Grice views his role in very simple terms.
"When my number is called, it's time to execute the plays. "