SAN FRANCISCO — ASU coach Todd Graham doesn’t have conversations with junior running back Marion Grice.
Contrary to his coach, Grice is not a talker. They’re both from Texas, but the Houston native is a tight-lipped individual.
“He answers me with yes or no answers,” Graham said. “I kind of like him because I like to talk and he listens.”
Coping with the death of a family member, Graham asked Grice if he was fine. Grice responded, “Yes,” and played during Saturday’s win over Navy 62-28 in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl.
Grice had to make an unfortunate trip back home last Friday as the team prepared for the Midshipmen (8-5). His older brother, 22-year-old Joshua Wood, was shot Friday as two men attempted to rob his Nike Air Jordan sneakers.
Grice returned with the team Tuesday night. Wood passed away Wednesday.
“We opened our arms up for Marion,” redshirt sophomore quarterback Taylor Kelly said. “We were all with him. He’s in our prayers with his family.”
Grice had to deal with the tragedy around Christmas of all weeks. Graham said the team embraced Grice, but didn’t want to surround him with attention. He praised senior running back Cameron Marshall’s efforts during Grice’s difficult week.
“Cam just took him under his wing and took him everywhere with him,” Graham said. “I think the normalcy of things is what we were trying to do for him.”
Grice didn’t say much to Graham besides the one-word response that he wanted to play. Graham was concerned about how well Grice would be able to play given the circumstances, but he turned in a typical Marion Grice performance. He had 159 rushing yards on 14 carries along with two catches for 19 yards.
Grice scored twice in the game. He scored from 10 yards out to give ASU a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Grice broke off a 39-yard touchdown run in the third quarter with the game out of reach. In both instances, Grice kissed the ball and pointed it to the heavens.
“I didn’t know if he’d be able to play, but he played unbelievably,” Graham said.
Grice spiked the pitchfork on the field after the game, earned the game ball in the locker room and earned the offensive MVP honors. He didn’t have the numbers Kelly did Saturday, but there isn’t a stat sheet that can quantify a heavy heart.
As he received his trophy on the midfield stage, he was asked about his performance given the death of his brother. Grice mumbled a few words and abruptly ended his sentence. After the game, Grice was supposed to talk to the media. Understandably so, he did not.
“He was still emotional after the game,” Graham said. “When you go through something like that, at the beginning there’s a lot of support but it’s going to be something that will take quite some time. He’s got a lot of brothers here that love him and support him. It’s going to be a hard road as time goes on.”
Whether football can assist someone during a time of grieve depends on the individual, but it puts the game in perspective. While ASU has won its third straight game to end the season, it won’t take away all of Grice’s pain.
Hopefully Saturday’s game gave Grice a few hours to clear his mind and temporarily numb his emotions. Hopefully.
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