If you peered inside the Stanford locker room before a football game, you would see a variety of pregame rituals. Some guys are focusing on the game plan, while other teammates are screaming with each other and getting pumped up before kickoff. If you wandered over to my locker, though, I'm doing something completely different.
I'm soaking in the words of Psalm 23, from a Bible gifted to me by my maternal grandparents as I set off to college.
It's a Psalm from David, and it was my paternal grandma's favorite verse. It may seem like a serene prayer to read before a football game, as it begins “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me besides quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.”
Those words calm me down during the game and keep me centered when the game plan goes haywire. But if you read further into the psalm, it talks about something every athlete can relate to: staying strong. “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”
I carry those words with me wherever we go. If we are on the road, I take that Bible with me. If we are at home, that Bible is sitting in my locker, waiting to encourage me for my big game.
That Psalm will also be with me as I prepare to take the next step in my career. There's just one detail that makes me a little different.
I have a deep passion for the game of football and I want to play in the NFL. But I also want to be a brain surgeon or CEO of a biotech company after football is over.
For those of you who haven't heard my name before, I'm Frank Buncom IV. I'm a Christian. I'm an African-American. I'm a football player. And I'm also a human biology student at Stanford University.
I have wanted to be a neurosurgeon since I was 7 or 8 years old, but it was only a few years ago that my dad made the connection why. His mother, the same grandmother who inspired me to read Psalm 23, lost her life to Pneumococcal Meningitis right around that time.
It was devastating for my father. You see, my dad was an only child, raised by his single mother. His dad, Frank Buncom II – who is in the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame – died when my dad was seven weeks old from a blood clot. So for almost all of my dad's upbringing, it was just him and my grandma.
Though my dad was able to endure and pass this test of his faith, it was an experience that I would not want to see another person go through. I think that I have the ability to change and strengthen the medical field and ultimately help prevent losses like that of my grandmother. And that's why I'm working so hard in school.
I'm taking 19-20 credits each quarter, even though the minimum requirement is 12. During the Spring quarter of my Junior year, I went to class Monday-Thursday, and then worked at a biotech startup off campus on Fridays until 8 or 9 p.m. with my teammate, Malik Antoine. I consider my dedication to my schoolwork and my real-world work as something that defines me.
But there's two other things in my life that require just as much devotion as my schoolwork: faith and football. My faith is the foundation for my life, and football is what puts a smile on my face and pays for everything else.
Unfortunately, my college football career seemed to get off track the moment it left the station.
(Title photo courtesy of Stanford Athletics/ISI photos)