Watching Marcel Dancy play running back for the Laney College Eagles is like following an object caught in a rushing stream as it careens down a mountainside.
In highlight film footage, the moments, just before he is seen running down the line to the end zone, are difficult to decipher. Like Harry Houdini escaping from a suit of locks and chains, the viewer cannot determine exactly how it is done, even after closely examining the motions.
He bobs. He weaves. He runs sideways or circles back, taunting the defensive line before him. He disappears for a moment in the crush of bodies, and the play seems finished until he emerges on the other side of the field, running down the line and nimbly evading the defensive players left standing.
Dancy had 1,033 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns, 22 receptions, and 241 receiving yards in the 2017 season. He was ranked seventh in the state with 6.8 yards per rush by the California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA).
CCCAA also unanimously named him to the All-Academic and First All-State Teams this year for Laney.
Dancy will graduate from Laney with high honors on May 25. He graduated in 2016 from Merrill F. West High School in Tracy.
In two seasons at Laney, he had a combined 1,994 rushing yards, 19 touchdowns, 27 receptions, and 292 receiving yards in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Along with fellow All-American running back Ahmari Davis, Dancy helped the Eagles go 9–2 in both 2016 and 2017, and in 2017 they went 5–0 in the National Valley Conference to advance to the NorCal Regional for the first time.
That year, Dancy and Davis became the first two running backs in Eagle history to rush over 1,000 yards each.
Dancy received a scholarship to UC Berkeley and will start training with the Bears May 28.
Davis also received a scholarship, to play running back for the University of New Mexico.
Coming from East Oakland, Dancy said this opportunity fulfills a childhood dream that has been realized because of God and sacrifices his family made.
“My family always saw I had a gift to play the game,” he said. “They made sure I stayed out of trouble and just did the right things.”
Dancy played other sports, including baseball and basketball, before he started playing football as a running back.
At times, his zigzag style looks like it could be at home on the soccer field, and his multi-sport approach is no accident. He currently practices with the Eagles track team, working with coaches Kevin Craddock and Ray Stewart to improve his speed and overall game.
Craddock said Dancy’s “strong and aggressive” approach to a goal is “a recipe for greatness. He focuses on track as if he’s gonna step on and do a race this weekend.”
Stewart said that Dancy’s performance and stamina remind him of Khalfani Muhammad, a former Cal running back who was drafted by the Tennessee Titans.
Attention to detail and a commitment to fully learning his trade has made an impression on Eagles defensive coach Derrick Gardner.
“One thing I think that sets Marcel apart is his ability to see the landscape and understand a setup,” Gardner said. “He’s anticipating their reaction.”
For Dancy, it’s all about getting ahead and doing the unexpected on the football field. His versatility allows his success as an occasional receiver.
“What the game is actually about is like chess,” he said — and yes, he plays that too.
Dancy thinks about future moves for his education as well. His major is business, with a focus on sports and money management.
“I have a lot of different reasons for what I do,” he said. “Opportunity is all I need to handle my business.”
Dancy also makes a point to give back to the community. He currently serves as an assistant coach to the Oakland Dynamites, a Pop Warner football team comprised of youths ages 5–13.
Helping young players realize their dreams and stay out of trouble is important to Dancy. He said he hopes to have an impact, “not just by words, but by actions.”
Eva Hannan is the sports editor of the Laney Tower.