Marcel Dancy seems to do all the right things.
Since taking his first reps with the California football team during training camp, the running back from Oakland has been impressing coaches and teammates.
Dancy is also wise beyond his years. He learned at a young age how important it is to stay on the right path if he really wanted to find success playing football.
After earning his spot with the Golden Bears – his dream school since he was a youngster growing up in Oakland – Dancy is determined to take advantage of his opportunity to be an inspiration for Oakland youth. He hopes to instill the same mindset of working hard and staying on the right path that he learned when he was their age.
"My motivation is to play in the NFL, but along that journey, I want to show kids how important it is to make the right decisions, not only in football but in life," Dancy said. "It's cool to go to school and I try to lead by example with that."
Before he snapped on a Cal helmet for the first time, Dancy played two seasons at Laney College in Oakland. During his time at Laney, he met Thirland Ross, head coach of the Oakland Dynamites Pop Warner football team. They met through Ross' son, Mekhi, who played on a flag football team with Dancy. After chatting with Dancy for a bit, Ross was impressed with his football knowledge and asked him if he would like to meet the kids he coaches and teach them more about the game of football.
Dancy jumped at the opportunity.
"He's great with the kids," Ross said. "The kids can relate to him because he had the same upbringing. Growing up in Oakland, you don't see a lot of people who give back the way he does. He teaches them that there's more to football besides what you do on the field. He tells them to make sure they're a student first and to make sure their grades are good. He tells them to respect their parents and give back when you can."
Dancy considers himself to be a big brother to the Dynamites. They can call him whenever they need anything, and he frequently checks in with Ross to see on how the team is doing.
Growing up, Dancy's family was instrumental in showing him the right path, and now he's trying to return the favor to kids he considers to be his younger brothers.
"I was lucky enough to have a lot of people looking out after me when I was a kid," Dancy said. "They made sure I stayed out of trouble and stayed focused on what I was trying to do. I'm trying to pay my family back by guiding everybody who looks up to me now."
Dancy's father, Daryl, said that while he's proud of how much his son cares about the kids, he isn't surprised.
"He is a really good man," Daryl said. "He cares about everybody and everything. That's rare coming from some of the places that people come from. He truly cares about people. It doesn't matter who you are or where you come from."
Growing up, Dancy attended a few Cal games and watched many more on TV. While he was attending West High School in Tracy, he participated in a Cal camp where he was coached by former Cal standout and current Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff. Not only did Goff and Dancy bond during that camp, but Goff was the one who told running backs coach Burl Toler III and the rest of the coaching staff that Dancy could be the real deal.
Toler remembers meeting Dancy at that camp and being very impressed with his talent and personality.
"It's funny because the guys who were at that camp in 2014 and are still here remember Marcel because he stood out that much," Toler said. "He was so determined and just got after it. He had the same mature personality back then and that also really stood out to me. I'm so happy to see things come to fruition for him with this opportunity and to see him take advantage of it."
Head coach Justin Wilcox has also taken notice of Dancy.
"He's a quick guy who makes powerful and decisive cuts," Wilcox said. "We're excited about what he's doing. He's got to continue to build off of what he's done so far. It's a competitive situation at running back, but he's going all-in on it. Every single day the guy brings it."
Dancy credits Kevin Parker – Cal's former director of player development – in being instrumental with him joining the Bears.
A childhood inspiration on and off the field for Dancy was former Cal standout running back Marshawn Lynch. Dancy volunteers at Lynch's Fam1st camps and Lynch is a family friend of the Dancys.
Dancy shares the same goal as Lynch of trying to make positive change in as many lives as possible. He hopes to follow in his role model's footsteps into the NFL and earn the opportunity to teach and inspire on a larger scale.
"When you get a platform like that, you have two options – you can just worry about yourself and take care of yourself, or you can take as many people as you can with you, and that's what I'm trying to do," Dancy said. "I'm trying to help put as many of these kids as I can in a position to succeed."
While there will be a lot of kids rooting for Dancy on the football field, he will be rooting for them in life.
Marcel Dancy seems to do all the right things.