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Long wait pays off for Air Force fullback Jacob Stafford

October 29, 2017 Updated: October 29, 2017 at 12:46 am
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Jacob Stafford doesn’t need your blazing speed, thank you very much.

Sure, part of him wants to fly fast jets one day. But he figures he’ll end up being assigned to helicopters, and he’s excited about the prospect of flying special ops missions in the Air Force.

And, sure, part of him wants to run like some of his fellow Falcons running backs. But even without that extra step the senior ran for 104 yards on just nine carries in a 45-28 victory at Colorado State on Saturday, and his 53-yard touchdown run now stands as a season-long rush for the Falcons.

So, this 5-foot-11, 230-pound fullback is perfectly content. With everything.

“It’s awesome,” Stafford said. “This is what I’ve been waiting for for four years. I’m just excited to be part of the team and help out as much as possible.”

Stafford’s was one of those waits that didn’t look like it might ever result in playing time.

The coaching staff switched him from inside linebacker to fullback after his freshman year, and he immediately checked in near the bottom of a long pecking order that included Shayne Davern, D.J. Johnson, Parker Wilson and others.

Even on Saturday – long after the graduation of Davern and Johnson – he was listed as third on the depth chart behind Wilson and Taven Birdow.

But Stafford, whose toughness coach Troy Calhoun has long lauded, has finally worked his way into regular time.

Over the past two weeks he has carried 22 times for 162 yards and the touchdown, which was the first of his career.

The position in general has enjoyed a two-week renaissance, as the fullbacks have rumbled 59 times for 337 yards and four touchdowns. It’s no coincidence that Air Force (4-4, 3-2 Mountain West) controlled time of possession more than 2 to 1 in those games.

Stafford believes his long wait for playing time has added to the toughness needed to play fullback.

“It’s tough, but we preach grit around our team,” he said. “It’s huge as far as our mentality we have on the team. If you stay around, you’re going to play. That proved to be true.”

As for busting out with a 100-yard rushing game, Stafford said he was probably the only one who could have foreseen it.

“I could see it, but everybody makes fun of me for being slow half the time,” he said.

The management major came to the academy in part because of an interest in flying inherited from his father, Dan, who privately flies helicopters in Texas.

Stafford recently learned he had received a pilot training slot.

So, it’s all coming together. It just took a while. But what kind of fullback – particularly one nicknamed “Bull” – wants anything that can be earned with ease?

“As a team we preach being tough and gritty and punching the ball through,” Stafford said. “Third and short, we’re going to get that first down every time. Fourth and goal, we’re going to get in the end zone. That’s a huge part of our team and our mentality. That’s the way we work and the way we practice.

"That’s our team right there.”

And Stafford, at long last, is a major contributor to that team.

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