Faster than a speeding bullet
Thursday, Oct 25, 2001
By Will Shapiro
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (BP)--John Stone epitomizes the phrase "team player." Ask him about his individual achievements and he shrugs you off. Ask him about his personal goals and all he talks about are wins.
It does not matter to him that he led the team in kick return yards, averaging 24.7 yards per return last season to lead the Wake Forest football team. It does not matter that his speed has made him a school-record holder in track because it is not track season. It does not matter that he broke an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Appalachian State last season because the Deacons did not win that game. All that matters are the wins.
The Deacons have had their share of naysayers in recent years, as competition in the ACC has grown tougher with each passing season. But Stone feels the tide turning.
"I think this team has the ability to finish wherever we want in the ACC," the senior wide receiver said. "It's just a matter of playing to the best of our ability and not worrying about what our opponents are doing."
That focus is what has allowed Stone to excel in both football and track throughout his collegiate career, while still balancing his academics. His determination is well-known among his teammates, coaches and professors and he credits his success in so many endeavors to self-discipline and routine.
"You have to keep your priorities straight and stay organized and you have to stay strong throughout the whole year," says the native of Somers Point, N.J. "Every student-athlete has to make sacrifices for their specific teams, but I think Wake allows you to get a well-balanced feel for both academics and athletics."
The amount of work that the team has had to put in this season has been tremendous, due to the transition into the style of first year head coach Jim Grobe. The squad has employed a no-huddle offense, a platoon system at quarterback and a much more aggressive aerial attack.
All of these changes have placed more weight on the shoulders of Stone's 5-11, 180-pound frame.
The no-huddle offense and more established passing game are tailor-made for his 4.2 40-yard speed and so it's no surprise that Stone is happy with the new style.
"A lot of work was put into the new offense in the spring and I like it a lot. It gets a lot of people involved," Stone said. "We have two strong quarterbacks and good depth at tailback, so it gives a lot of people the opportunity to make plays and show what they can do."
To help the new offense run with more efficiency, Stone put in a lot of individual work in the preseason to improve his personal performance. With all the time he has devoted to track over the years, his football practice time may have been slightly diminished, but he has been determined to make up for lost time. His coaches, including wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman. are well-aware of his work ethic and are confident in his ability to contribute to the team, both as a player and as a captain.
"He's a good person and he has great leadership. He has a lot of speed, he's gotten better with concentrating and catching the football and it's paid off," Sherman said.
In the limited part of the year that Stone is not playing football or running track, he is home in New Jersey, relaxing with family and friends. Much of his emotion lately has been focused on his home and family, where the tragic terrorist attack of September 11 still echoes.
"Everyone is shocked and saddened by it," Stone said. "The team, the campus and the nation are all shaken by it, but it shows what is really important in life."
Despite the tragedy, Stone has persevered and tried to remain focused on the task ahead. And of course, he refuses to single out this game as different from any other.
"You always want to win against the ACC rivals," Stone said. "I think that's very important for the respect we get around the conference, but we like to take it one game at a time. The Maryland game is just like any other tough game that we're going to have to play very well to win."
The team has played well and Grobe knows that Stone's presence has much to do with his squad's success.
"John's a guy that has all the qualities you look for in a player," Grobe said. "Our team really likes him, he's very well-respected, both as a football player and as a person and he's just one of those guys that you enjoy having in your football program."
And Stone enjoys being in the program. His career is coming to a close, but that is farthest thing from his mind right now. He wants to win now, the team wants to win now and now is as good a time as any.
Stone says he does not worry about Florida State, Georgia Tech or Maryland. All he is concerned about is that sprint to victory.
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