“It’s better to be prepared for an opportunity that might not come than have an opportunity come and not be prepared.” – Air Force third-team running back Bryan Driskell.
Bryan says he lives by those words learned from his parents, Stancey and Ernestine Driskell. They especially sunk in watching his mother beat cancer.
“The whole time she was there for us,” Driskell said. “She always did the best she could, and she always had a smile. That’s a big reason I always smile, too. She instilled in me to be relentless no matter the circumstances. You never know when your time will come. If you quit, you might miss your time.”
The junior’s moment on a football field finally came last week at Fresno State.
Driskell had been buried on Air Force’s depth chart, but for the Fresno State game the Falcons were without injured fullbacks Shayne Davern and D.J. Johnson. Air Force coach Troy Calhoun and his staff shifted Jacobi Owens from tailback to fullback and started Benton Washington in place of Owens.
Driskell, a 5-foot-8, 190-pound junior from McKinney, Tx., had only five carries for his career entering the game – all in 2015. He had played on the JV team as a freshman and didn’t carry the ball as a sophomore. But when his time came, he carried 12 times for 144 yards to lead Air Force in rushing in a 42-14 win at Fresno State.
How ready was he? His first carry went for 54 yards to the Fresno State 15-yard line. Six plays later quarterback Karson Roberts scored the first of his four on a 1-yard run.
“I couldn’t sleep the night before the game,” Driskell said. “That first play helped.”
It was an option with the defense loaded between the tackles to focus on stopping the veterans inside, Owens and Roberts. They weren’t as worried about the new kid positioned to run wide.
“It was an option play and the defense covered the fullback,” Driskell said. “Karson pulled it out and pitched to me. All I saw was open space. I ran until I saw the safety and cut back to a big hole. I used my speed to try to get to the sideline. It was just a play that happened.”
By the end of the day Driskell added to his 54-yard gallop with four other double-digit gains of 11, 25, 11, 17 yards. His gross and net yardage totals were the same – meaning he wasn’t stopped for a loss on any carries. He didn’t score a touchdown, but all that mattered was moving the chains for others to score.
“I felt coming into the season — even before I was in the mix — I’m going to work my butt off,” Driskell said. “I wanted to keep the mindset I would work as hard as I could so I’d be ready when my time came. I did not want to let circumstances dictate how hard I worked. I also had a lot of support from my coaches, teammates and family. God had a course for me.”
Air Force’s victory combined with results from the previous two weeks — Utah State upset Boise State but then Utah State lost at San Diego State — has the Falcons tied atop the Mountain West Conference’s Mountain Division race. All three teams are 3-1 in the MW Mountain, while Boise State is 6-2 overall and Air Force and Utah State both 4-3.
For now, Driskell is back to third on the depth chart as the Falcons prepare for Saturday night’s game at Hawaii (6-2, 0-4 MW West). Next, the Falcons play host to Army (2-5) Nov. 7 at Falcon Stadium. It’s one of their two rivalry games after losing to Navy earlier in the year.
“Every week we take one game at a time,” Driskell said. “If you look at things over a longer period you’ll get caught looking ahead. We live day by day. Today we’re trying to have a lights out practice for Hawaii.”
That’s a message that no doubt comes from the coaches, but Driskell could deliver it just as well.