6 - The Michigan Daily - SPORTSMonday - Monday, November 22, 1993
Continued from Page 1
gest that Stanley, would develop into
the maniacal terror of a football player
that he has become.
Few knew that he would perform to
such consistently high standards that
his coach, defensive coordinator Lloyd
Carr, would be led to hold the opinion
that "if he's not All-Big Ten, then the
All-Big Ten team is meaningless."
It probably was not very easy to
believe that this economy-sized child
full of laughs and mischief would be-
come the captain of a storied football
team, a player who would command
the lasting respect and earn the trust and
friendship of his 100-plus teammates.
There was little evidence then, and
to know him only as Buster Stanley, the
senior who is about to receive his Sports
Management and Communications de-
gree, there is little evidence today.
After all,.his roommate of five years,
Alfie Burch describes his buddy as "a
big, jolly Santa Claus-looking person.
That's what I call him. When I first met
him, I was like, 'You're a big teddy
bear. A big ole Santa Claus."'
Yetdespite these apparent obstacles
- after all, how many big, jolly Santa
Claus-looking defensive tackles are
there? - Stanley has become all of
these things that once seemed so incon-
gruous to him: a terrific football player,
a candidate for numerous postseason
honors, a highly-respected captain of
the Michigan football team.
Truth be known, though, the poten-
tial for him to reach these achievements
has probably been there all along. It is
just that these facets of his character
blended into the blinding brilliance of
his easygoing personality and forever-
upbeat outlook on life.
It was like trying to focus on the
glow of a 1,000-watt bulb while look-
ingdirectly into awhite-hotsearch light.
The light bulb was shining brighter
and brighter; you just couldn't see it.
Sylvester Stanley went into the cel-
lar and clapped his hands, overjoyed.
His son, who bore his name but whom
everyone called Buster, had just com-
pleted a 180-degree about-face by an-
nouncing his plans to go to college. The
elder Stanley had been hoping for this
day all along, discreetly pushing and
nudging the son toward the decision.
SylvesterStanley worked endlessly
forhischildren, Marcella and Buster. In
addition to working the 6p.m. to 4am.
shift at a nearby General Motors plant
four days a week, he worked sidejobs to
earn extra money in hopes of providing
for his children's college education.
With his wages, plus the salary
drawn by wife Theodora, a licensed
practical nurse, Sylvester managed to
put Marcella through the University of
Akron with nary aconcern about work-
study commitments or trying to finish
school ahead of time to save money.
"There are things that I believe they
sacrificed for us," Marcella says. "We
were comfortable - it wasn't bad or
anything - but they've done things
that they didn't have to do for us."
Perhaps too many things.
"You don't care about me, you care
about the kids,"Theodora Stanley would
"Well, they're mine," her husband
would counter, half-jokingly.
In addition to the extra jobs of con-
struction -working on houses and at a
scrap yard- Sylvester Stanley drove a
dump truck. In the summertime, that is
where he put Buster, hoping he might
get the hint that this truck was where he
would be headed without a college di-
ploma. Eventually, Buster fell into line
with Dad's line of thinking.
"That's what changed the story,
because he didn't like all the hard work,"
And so after years of proclaiming to
his parents that "college isn't forevery-
body," Buster Stanley one day an-
nounced to his mother, "I'm going to
Sylvester Stanley probably wanted
to grab his son and give him the hug of
his life, buthedidn'tthink thatwouldbe
"I wasn't going to push him to go,"
So Sylvester went into the cellar and
clapped his hands.
This, he believes, is when the fire
was lit in his son's belly.
The heat of a Youngstown summerI
was sometimes oppressive. It was on
the hottest of those summer days whenI
Stanley, still in high school, would im-
press his father the most.s
"Daddy, I'm gonna go make myc
payday bigger," Stanley would yell as
he headed out for a training run underc
the blistering sun.
His sister noticed the effort as well.t
"We had weights in our basementI
and he would come home after school
and lift," Marcella says. "On the week-c
ends, he was always in the basement ifl
he wasn't running."t
And before Stanley'sdays atYoung-I
stown East High School were over, he
was attracting the attention of plenty of
people other than his father and sister.
Stanley had just about every major
college program beating a path to
Youngstown. The Detroit Free PressE
placed him on the "Best of the Mid-i
west" team. UPI named him its Line-
man of the Year.1
Only a couple of years after telling
his parents that college wasn't for ev-I
erybody, Stanley was showing that, at1
the least, it was for him.
In the spring of 1989, after a drawn-
out process, Stanley chose Michigan,
over Ohio State and Michigan State, inI
part because Ann Arbor reminded him1
of Youngstown. He was off to college.c
He would room with the friend he had
made through battles on the footballI
field and basketball court, the friendi
who announced his intention to play forI
Michigan only a day before Stanley<
did, Alfie Burch, of Warren, Ohio. I
It was a fall day years removed from
the excitement ofsigning day, and there1
was no excitement anywhere near teamI
captain Buster Stanley.<
He was wearing the same color uni-I
form as the guys on the field, but he didc
not recognize them. As the closing min-
utes of Michigan's 42-21 win overI
Houston slowly vanished, so too did
Houston's quarterback, Chuck
Clements, was shredding the Michigan
second- and third-stringers. This was a
freshman - a freshman! -making his
first start, playing at Michigan, and he
was embarrassing the Wolverines. 4
"Sitting on the sidelines, Ijust knewi
that wasn' tMichigan'sdefense out there
playing," Stanley would say later. i
To most observers, Clements' 276-1
yard, two-touchdown day was not a big1
deal. Michigan was still tuning up, and
rusty from the week off. The seasonI
was still young. Why worry?;
To Stanley, it was a very big deal.
"They shouldn'thave scored apoint
on us," he says.;
He had waited four years for this,
his senior season. This was the pinnacle
of the Michigan football experience,
the year when players assume the mantle
of leadership and show what they've
learned and what they can do. But this
chance had to be earned first.
"Ever since I've been a freshman,
you gave your all for the seniors," he
explains. "And when your time comes,
the underclassmen turn to give their all
Maybe the second- and third-string-
ers were giving it their all, but they
"It just felt different. I just felt it
wasn't there," he says.
Something had tobedone. But what?
And by whom? Was Stanley going to
do it? After all, when he had been
elected captain, he told his teammates,
"I might need a little help out there,
because y'all know that I don't talk that
But in the end, it was Stanley, and he
didn't need help from anyone. Stanley
called a defensive players-only meet-
ing for the next day at Schembechler
"I just felt that we needed to talk," he
Stanley spoke first, and then yielded
the floor to the rest of the team. Seniors
did most of the talking, and the air was
cleared. The defense could move on.
. "I was thinking, 'I see why he's
captain," says Will Carr, a freshman
lineman. "You could tell in the way
everybody played the following week."
The next week, with Stanley deliv-
ering a Big Ten Player-of-the-Week
performance, the Michigandefense lev-
eled Iowa in a 24-7 victory. Stanley was
in on 10 tackles, including two sacks.
"Guys look up to Buster," junior
linebacker Bobby Powers said after the
game. "That's how he is."
But before guys ever looked up to
Buster, Busterlookedup to Mike Evans.
Like they do with all freshmen, in
Stanley's first year, the Michigan
coaches advised him to try and choose
a worthy upperclassman whose lead he
Stanley saw Evans - a defensive
tackle who walked onto the team as a
freshman and fought his way into a
scholarship and starting position -and
decided he couldn't do much better.
Both of them liked to joke around off
the field but were serious on it. Though
Evans wasn't a captain, he helped
Stanley all the same.
"When you're afreshman, you have
so much stuff to learn, and especially
when you start playing in the games,
you're more responsible to learn it," he
explains. "He'd just tell me, 'You'll get
it. Just keep hustling.'
"I really hung around Mike Evans a
lot. He's like a big brother to me,"
Stanley adds. "He's taught me a lot
because he went through a lot at the
University of Michigan."
Evans' investment in Stanley could
not have paid off better. During the
August practice sessions, the Michigan
players voted Stanley and running back
Ricky Powers co-captains. Neither has
disappointed in their role.
"I thought that leadership-wise, we
had two remarkable captains a year ago
in Chris Hutchinson and Corwin
Brown," assistant Lloyd Carr says. "I
can honestly say that Buster Stanley has
been every bit as remarkable. "
"What a great leader," said coach
Gary Moeller at Saturday's press con-
ference after Michigan's 28-0 victory
over Ohio State. "What a great leader.
He's a super leader and he was a big part
of everything that happened this year."
"It's an honor that they think so
highly of me," Stanley says of his team-
mates. "When they picked me as their
captain, I said I wasn't going to let them
He hasn't, and just as Evans did
with him, Stanley is passing the torch.
The handoff began as early as last year,
when Stanley was introduced to differ-
ent recruits and began to take a personal
interest in them.
Stanley met Will Carr on a recruit-
ing visit, and from that point on began
making an impression on the likeable
freshman from Dallas.
Before he moved into South Quad
this fall, Carr lived with Stanley in his
apartment, each day talking, laughing
and learning from the captain. They
would also often venture out together,
and the fun-loving pair would play their
games on unsuspecting victims.
"We kind of had this thing going
where we used to tell girls that we were
brothers," Carr recalls, laughing. "So
people would see me and say, 'There
goes Buster's little brother."'
Denson, the lineman who at first
was surprised with Stanley's jovial na-
ture, learned firsthand the other side of
his personality after Michigan's loss to
Notre Dame earlier this season.
"I had always been used to doing
things on my own and not having to
look to anyone for guidance," Denson
said. "But Buster, after the Notre Dame
game-we had gotten some injuries-
he took me aside and said, 'Look
Damon, you've been working hard, but
you're gonna have to play earlier than
we expected you to play. Keep improv-
ing and working hard each week."'
But the team did not vote him cap-
tainjustbecauseof whathe said in team
meetings, or because he took freshmen
aside for pep talks. They elected him
not for what he said in those situations,
but because of what he said through his
intensity each and every fall Saturday.
He is a changed man on those days,
beginning the moment he enters the
locker room and sits by himself, medi-
tating and quietly working himself into
a state where he is ready to play.
And this drive carries out onto the
field. Burch remembers the last Ohio
State game at Michigan Stadium, in
1991. Before the game, he and Stanley
were sitting on the bench, so fired up, so
ready to get it on with the Buckeyes.
They looked at each other.
"We started crying," Burch says.
"The intensity was so overwhelming,
we had tears in our eyes."
And his teammates voted him cap-
tain for the incredible volume of work
he puts in for each season, each game.
"He puts so much into it in the
offseason in terms of running and lift-
ing. His conditioning has been abso-
lutely remarkable," Lloyd Carr says.
"He came in this year in remarkable
As Burch says, effort like that is all
you need and speaks better than any
speech ever could.
"Hepays his duesoffofthe field. He
puts time in lifting, he puts time in
watching extra film," Burch explains.
"That's the type of leader you want on
a team. There's not anything you need
to say when you see someone do some-
thing like that. What can you say to
criticize aperson who's putting in more
time than you are."
And this season has provided his
teammates one more reason to think
highly of him. He has put together afine
season to cap a very solid career.
Leading Michigan to its victory over
Ohio State should put to rest any of
those doubts. The coaching staff has
named him Defensive Champion three
times this season, and Stanley earned
Big Ten Player of the Week for the
Iowa game. He has46 tackles, theteam-
high for linemen. In a season in which
the defense has suffered countless inju-
ries, Stanley has been the glue that has
held it together.
He plans to try to achieve his dream
of playing professional football next
spring, and his coaches figure he can
"I absolutely think he has a chance
to make it in the NFL because of his
work ethic and his love for the game,"
Carr predicts. "He plays the game, in
my opinion, like it was meant to be
After Saturday's victory, Moeller
spoke emotionally of his captain who
had just played his last game in Michi-
"The thing that you always remem-
ber and you look at is that there are some
guys that are leaving," Moeller began.
"I mean, why does Buster Stanley dang
near before every game sit there in
"He wants to play so bad. He's
going to leave. He won't have this
again. You guys want to write some-
thing? You tell some pro team to jump
on him because that's a tough man. I'm
telling you that. He could go for IBM or
the NFL, I don't care which."
But take away the leadership and
the ability, and there would still be the
great respect from all sides. Because
before he was captain Buster, he was
just Buster, everybody's friend.
Simply for being a funny and easy-
going person, and perhaps more impor-
tantly, for being a friend of the highest
order, Stanley is probably the most
popular player on the Michigan foot-
They were only sophomores then,
Stanley, Burch, wide receiver Derrick
Stanley with his father, Sylvester Sr., and the rest of his family.
Alexander and safety Tony
Blankenship. They, as well as defen-
sive lineman Ninef Aghakhan, were
just beginning to form a tight friend-
This day, though, the four of them
werejustregular college students, piled
intoBlankenship and Alexander's South
Quad dorm room, laughing and making
cracks at one another.
"We used to call him 'Sly,' like
Sylvester Stallone. And in our laughter,
kidding around, we had a little slip of
the tongue, and it came out 'Sleemin'
instead of 'Sly,' and we've been calling
him that ever since," says Burch, trying
mightily to refrain from bursting out
"We say to him, 'You're just like a
big Sleemin, you'rejustlike abig dino-
saur. We call him a little baby dinosaur,
too. There's a lot of things we kid him
about, about being like that. He's just so
jolly. There's nothing you can say bad
about him, so you've just got to say
something stupid. You just gotta say
Burch left the room dubbed "The
Great Oofness," Alexander "Pretty D,"
and Blankenship "Tiny B." The names
did not mean very much, although their
usage surfaces every now and then. It
was just guys relaxing, hanging out,
being silly, something forwhichStanley
is first-team All-America.
He has been perfecting his form
since he was akid, when he had the silly
part down, but needed work with the
relaxing and hanging out. His mother
remembers Buster's kindergarten's days
"I used to get a note almost every-
day or acall from the teacher becausehe
wouldn't stay in his seat," she remem-
bers. "He talked all the time and he
moved all the time. He was just busy.
He would play with a toy for two sec-
onds and then he'd throw that toy aside
and he'd get something else."
Then there were the times when
Theodora would leave Buster and sister
Marcella with his grandmother, who
lived close by. To say Buster was a
bundle would be an understatement.
The child was more like$150ofgrocer-
ies in easy-tear bags.
"When I was a little kid I used to go
over to her house and bust up every-
thing," he said.
His sister remembers him raiding
the cupboards and running around the
house, always one step ahead of his
grandmother. "He'd break stuff and
he'd go somewhere and we couldn't
find him. He just got into everything,"
"(My grandmother) would make me
go wherever my mother went," Buster
added. "She would watch my sister but
she wouldn't watchme. She waslike,'I
love you, baby, but you're too bad.' I
was just busting stuff. So that's where I
got the name Buster."
Eventually, Stanley began to calm
down, becoming more and more like
his laid-back father, the elder Sylvester.
Buster says he is a lot like his parents.
They have passed on their friendly,
take-life-as-it-comes natures to bothhim
and his sister.
"Everybody's always like, 'Why
are you so happy all the time, smiling
and everything?"' Stanley says. "The
only time I'm mean is when I'm play-
ing football. Otherwise, I'd rather be
By the time junior high and high
school rolled around, when he wasn't
on the playing fields, he was into more
leisurely pursuits, like inviting friends
to watch movies.
"They would just be watching the
movies on cable," Theodora Stanley
says. "They always used to order pizza
and pop. That was their big thing, pizza
and pop. Maybe on Saturdays, they'd
go out to the mall. That was their big
And when he was by himself, he
IP I T P F
Name: Buster Stanley
read a lot of comic books and watched
a lot of cartoons, two pastimes he still
"It's the kid in me, Iguess," he says*
The X-Men is his favorite comic.
He has become an avid comic book
collector and was a diehard fan of the X-
Men cartoon until the program was
canceled. That was hardly enough,
though, to keep him away from the
"I like all types ofcartoons, itdoesn't
matter," he says. "I could put on the
Cartoon Channel and I could watch it
These days, Stanley has other
sources ofamusement, namelyhisteam-
mates. With all the time they spend
togetherduring the summer,during two-
a-days in August, during the season and
then during spring practice, the players
get to know one another very well.
Having been around for over four years,
Stanley has developed a keen sense for
what gets under the skin of his team@
mates. Armed with this encyclopedic
knowledge, Stanley puts it to use daily.
To wit, running back Tyrone
"He's ticklish," Stanley says. "I'll
say, 'You leave me alone, or I'll tickle
you.' And he'll say, 'Alright, man, Ill
quit.' That's one thing he doesn't like..
He hates to be tickled."
And offensive lineman Trezelle
"Tree doesn't like to get picked on.
We go through this drill, one-on-one
pass rush. I'll be like, 'Oh Tree, I beat
you today, dog. Tree, you just got
whipped.' And he'll get mad and say,
'Oh, you didn't do nothin', you didn't
And he is funny even when he
doesn't mean to be. Earlier this season,
Lloyd Carr was reviewing film of th@
Purdue game with his defense. On' a
certain play, a Boilermaker runner
eluded several tackles, including a fu-
tile attempt by cornerback Ty Law.
"After the play was over, you could
see on film where Buster hit Ty Law in
the back of the head and told bird,
'Don't you ever miss any more tack-
les,"' Will Carr recalls. "When it hap-
pened, it wasn't funny, but when yo.
look atiton film, you're like, 'Oh, man,
that was funny."'
Lloyd Carr kept rewinding the epi-
sode and replaying it, rewinding and
replaying. The film room was in hyster-
ics, and no doubt, Stanley was roaring,
laughing his trademark laugh and grin-
ning his trademark grin.
They are perhaps the most charm-
ing aspect of his personality. He hasat-
easy smile and laugh, and they are a
"He has that real sheepish smile'
his mother points out. "He smiles all thF
"He just gives his usual laugh, his
little, 'Ha-ha-ha,"' describes Burch;
mimicking Stanley's chuckle in a fal-
setto voice. "Then the little grin of his.
We make fun of him all the time.
"You'll interview him," continue
Burch, explaining Stanley's approac
toreporters. "You might say, 'What led
you to be so good right now?' And he'll
go 'Aha-ha-ha.' He'll start laughing.
He's not boastful at all. I think he just
views things as being humoroustohim."
Not surprisingly, in his senior year
atYoungstown East, Stanley was voted
to have the best smile.
But it is not only the smile and the
laughs that have endeared him so muc*
to his teammates. His roommate of fivp
years, Burch, can probably best explain
"Off the football field, he's one of
the most pleasant people I know. He'd
do anything for any of his friends. I
Stanley runs under the "Go Blue"
banner at Michigan Stadium for the
last time Saturday.
The Princeton Review can help you prepare, and help the homeless at the same time.
If you enroll before December 25, and bring in 2 canned goods or two articles of winter
w s i . w