April 12, 2024

Flip The Script: Stanback embraces change in ’24

Christian Bender/CFL.ca

Call it anger. Call it bitterness. Call it a quest for redemption.

Regardless of the descriptor, William Stanback is determined to prove the Montreal Alouettes committed a grave error by not giving him the football more in 2023.

This season, the 29-year-old tailback plans to channel his grievances into hard-fought yardage on behalf of his new employer, the BC Lions.
We caught up with Stanback this week in Hamilton at the CFL’s content capture.

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Q: How are you feeling about your change of address for the 2024 CFL season?

A: I’m excited. It’s a clean slate for me. I’m starting brand new.

Q: Why was it time to leave the Alouettes?

A: Well, it really wasn’t my decision. If anyone asked me before last season, I wanted to be an Alouette. But just as the season progressed, things didn’t look promising for the future. I felt the distance between — not necessarily all the coaches — but a few of them and the people upstairs. Things had changed drastically and I felt things were coming to a head with how I was being played and my usage on the field.

Q: Why go to the Lions?

A: I felt like that was the best opportunity for me. Living on the East Coast all my life, I thought going to the West Coast would be different for me and brand new. And I’m linking back up with my old teammates like Vernon Adams Jr. and my old teammate John Bowman is a coach there too.

Q: As a guy from New York, what’s it going to be like playing in Vancouver?

A: It’s going to be awesome. I’m really excited for everything that’s in store. I just want to see what it’s like with the weather out there. And my wife, she’s looking forward to going to the beaches. So are my kids. It’s going to be a different lifestyle, and we’re ready for it.

Q: How do you respond to anyone who says you might have lost a step?

A: Honestly, I’ve been hearing that a lot. But you can’t really say someone fell off or lost a step when they haven’t been given the ball. Anyone who ran for over 1,000 yards last season, look at their carries compared to mine. I still average over five yards a carry. I understand. I see that stuff on Twitter and sometimes Facebook too. But I don’t really care what the critics say about me. I’ve never even had 200 carries a season. So, if I get 200 carries this year coming up, just imagine how many yards I will get. I was sat down for four games last season that I didn’t feel I needed to get sat down for. The only truthful game that I would have missed due to injury was against Toronto. Other than that game, I was healthy. A healthy scratch. And that’s because, I guess, the front office thought I was becoming too expensive. That wasn’t the case at all.

Stanback takes his prolific ground game West this season, suiting up for the BC Lions (Thomas Skrlj/CFL.ca)

Q: Different people are motivated by different things. How much does anger fuel your fire?

A: I wouldn’t say I have a lot of anger, but there is some type of bitter feeling that I have with leaving the Alouettes. I look at this year as my redemption year, to let everyone know that I got back after that ankle injury. I was just held back. I made sure to put in the work to get back from that broken ankle. And when I got back to 100 per cent, I was held down and couldn’t excel and be the Will Stanback that everyone knew me for.

Q: What’s your favourite book?

A: My favourite book growing up was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Q: What about favourite movie?

A: I’d probably say Belly or Paid in Full.

Q: What was your first car?

A: My first car was a Chevy Lumina. It was a 1998 or 1999 and sky blue.

Q: What are your goals for this season?

A: To be the best running back again and to get back on board to how I used to be — and I’m shooting for another Grey Cup.

Stanback has dealt with significant loss while trying to carve out his pro football career, losing both of his parents in 2020 (Thomas Skrlj/CFL.ca)

Q: What are some of the most difficult adversities you’ve dealt with and overcome?

A: Well, the No. 1 thing that’s still on my mind these days is going back to the NFL in 2020 and not fulfilling my dream of making the team (the Las Vegas Raiders). My parents passed that year, so I missed a lot of time during training camp. When I did come back to training camp, they released me like two days after. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was kind of in a dark place. But realizing I was having my daughter and with my wife being in my life, that kept me going. Because it’s like, “I can’t give up. Now I have people to feed. I have people to take care of.” So, the biggest adversity I’ve overcome was getting cut by the NFL in 2020, coming back to the CFL and losing my parents nine days apart.

Q: Nine days apart…how did you lose both parents in such a short time span?

A: My dad had bladder cancer. It caught up to him really fast, and he didn’t have time to fight it. And the nine days? Well, we told my mom. She was developing dementia, so she didn’t really know what was going on. My father’s name is Billy. So, she kept saying, “Where’s Billy?” Me and my brothers kept trying to explain to her what was going on and what happened. And one day, it just clicked and then she went into cardiac arrest. She had a heart attack.

Q: How did you cope with your mom having dementia?

A: I had started to realize what was happening with my mom in 2019. Every time, after games, my mom would ask the same questions. “How’s the weather?” or “how is it up there?” I started to realize she would never ask questions about how I was doing or how my wife was doing or that kind of stuff. And then in 2020, it became worse, and my dad got sick too.

Q: How did the whole experience of losing your mom and dad change you?

A: I learned to not take things for granted in life — to be respectful, to show love, and show gratitude for the things that are given to you. Time is of essence, and you really have to cherish it with the ones you love. I make sure I’m there and present for my kids, so they know for a fact that their daddy loves them.

Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: In football, with me being a running back, I always try to attack the defence before they attack me. I know I’m going to have contact or get hit on every play. So let me hit them before they hit me. That’s probably the best advice I could give any young running back. Because I feel if you strike even the slightest amount of fear in the defensive heart, then it’s going to be a long game for them.

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