As TDs pile up, Marion Grice remains focused on winsPosted: Updated:
TEMPE, Ariz. -- The more a person does something, the less special it becomes. It's simply human nature.
Based on his on-field production so far this season, some fans may say that Arizona State running back Marion Grice may not be human, so it makes sense that his frequent trips to the endzone never lose their luster.
“It doesn’t get old," said Grice of scoring touchdowns. "It is a great feeling that you get the opportunity to get into the endzone. But it’s all up to my O-linemen. They do a great job to help me get there.”
Through the season's first four games, Grice has scored 12 touchdowns—eight rushing and four receiving. Those dozen scores lead the nation by a healthy margin, as Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks is second with nine, despite having the benefit of playing in one more game than Grice.
The hot start also puts Grice on pace to shatter ASU's single-season touchdown record, currently held by the late Wilford White who scored 22 in 1950. While the possibility of breaking a 63-year old record held by one of the program's true legends may be a big deal, Grice isn't paying it any attention right now.
“It’s going to take care of itself," Grice said. "I don’t keep up with any individual stats. I just keep up with team stats. I just keep playing hard.”
That nose-to-the-grindstone mentality has come to define Grice, a player who much prefers to let his play on the field do his talking. While most of his peers around the sport put on flashy celebrations when scoring a touchdown, Grice prefers to simply hand the ball to a referee and jog to the sideline.
"It’s been with me for a while, even back in junior college," said Grice of his now signature post-scoring move. "I don’t celebrate or anything. I just hand it to the official and act like I’ve been there before, and then get ready for the next drive.”
Beyond just the touchdowns, Grice has assumed the role as the centerpiece of the Sun Devil offense.
He leads the team with 259 yards on 65 carries, and is tied with fellow running back D.J. Foster for second on the team with 22 receptions for another 183 yards. With the coaching staff wanting to get even more touches for the senior, Grice is also the team's top kickoff returner with nine returns for 206 yards. Grice's average of 161.3 all-purpose yards-per-game is currently 11th best in the nation.
Ever humble, Grice is focusing his attention on the road ahead, not the one he recently ran over.
“I’ve started off pretty good. I’ve got a great start, but I’ve got a long season ahead of me," Grice said. "I just need to work hard in practice and finish the season strong.”
His play has also caught the attention of NFL scouts, who have begun pegging the 6-foot, 207-pounder as a possible early-to-middle round pick in next May's draft. His ability to run with speed and power, catch the ball, and stay back in pass protection make him an enticing selection in a league that has devalued the position in recent years.
Predictably, Grice shrugs any NFL talk off.
“It’s pretty much whatever happens," he said.
Grice's success has been made more impressive by the uneven play of the Sun Devil offensive line. The group has struggled at times throughout the year, most notably against Stanford, but rebounded to have a solid showing last Saturday against USC.
Despite the up-and-down play in front of him, Grice has full confidence in the line.
"It's been great. Everybody says what they want, but I feel like my O-line has done a great job," Grice said. "I just feel that at the end, it's all going to speak for itself that they did a great job."
Up next, Grice and the Sun Devils will have a major challenge ahead of them in the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The Irish defense is led by a pair of outstanding, and massive, defensive tackles in Louis Nix III (357 pounds) and Stephon Tuitt (322) that will make running room a valuable commodity on Saturday. After facing several stout defenses so far this year, Grice feels that ASU won't be in for any surprises.
“I just have to continue running the ball and being physical," said Grice. "It’s almost the same thing. They have an Okie front and big guys in the front. We’ve been playing against a lot of big guys, so it’s nothing new for us.
"We just need to prepare at practice and be ready to play.”