(Photo courtesy of Stanford Athletics)

I still remember that awful feeling as we walked into the locker room last year against Washington. It was only halftime of that game, but reality was starting to sink in.

Wow, our season is taking a huge turn. We're struggling.

We had already lost three of our last four games, and two quarters later it would be four out of our last five. We looked nothing like the team that started 4-0 and was ranked #7 in the country. Our program had averaged 10.6 wins a season between 2010 and 2017, and here we were, staring at a 5-4 record.

But the storm of 2016 gave me two things. The first was strength, and the other was perspective.

Okay, so maybe our season was going through a rough patch, but it wasn't the end of the world. It's football. That doesn't mean I wasn't going to do everything in my power to turn it around, but I also knew that life had bigger meaning than our football record.

Plus, I think we all came to Stanford because we didn't want to take the easy path. No other program in the country has a legacy of academics and athletics like we have at Stanford, and we all came here to push ourselves out of our comfort zone. It's probably the reason why nobody back in Baton Rouge could fault me when I chose to come here. They knew that I was striving for greatness.

I used to complain all the time about my workload, and how difficult it is here, but I just had to remind myself that this is what I wanted and that honestly it wasn’t about me. When I began to stare at our 5-4 record, I knew that complaining wasn't going to win our next game against Oregon State. We rallied together and won that game 48-17, then beat UCLA 49-42. A week later, on the road against our big rival Cal, we won 23-13.

I remember warming up for that game as the rain was pouring down, but during the first quarter the sun broke out. It kind of felt like the sign that the worst was behind us, and it only seemed fitting that the win over Cal qualified us for the Sun Bowl. We trailed Pitt 13-7 going into the fourth quarter of that game, but by this point our team was feeling confident. Our offense scored the go-ahead touchdown with 11:28 to go, and once we came up with the big turnover on downs in the closing minutes, we could all celebrate as a team.

Now we're entering next year with a four-game winning streak, with no intentions of stopping anytime soon.

(Photo courtesy of Stanford Athletics)

I'm coming up on my senior year, and I'm emerging as one of the vocal leaders on the team. Before a tough workout or practice, my teammates will look to me to say something inspiring. And as we all gather in a circle and put our hands in the air, I conclude the speech with Family on 3! 1...2....3....Family!

If my teammates and this community have taught me anything, it's that you don't have to share a bloodline to be family. After what the people here have done for me and my parents, that word has taken on a new meaning.

I don’t know how to thank everyone at Stanford enough, other than just to say that your kindness was not lost on me. And down the road when I’ll encounter someone else in need, I’ll make sure to remember what family looks like.

Go Cardinal!

Malik Antoine #3

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