Earning His Spot Stone Azarcon: A Walk-On Story

Vince Lombardi once said, “the harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” For junior walk-on safety Stone Azarcon – surrender isn’t an option.

Hardships are common in the world of sports, whether it is overcoming an injury or a heartbreaking loss, athletes from all walks of life have had to endure tough times. For Azarcon though, his heartbreak has fueled his desire and dreams to become the man his family knew he could be.

Azarcon’s tie to Utah and the sport of football was decided even before he was born with his father, Jose, and grandparents immigrating to Utah from the Philippines. His father would meet his mother, Cinamon, during their time in Utah and the pair would eventually move to Colorado, the home of the Denver Broncos.

“I started playing football at around eight years old,” Azarcon said. “My father was a season ticket holder for the Denver Broncos, so he brought me to as many games as possible. That’s where I found my love for the sport.”

Azarcon grew up in Broomfield, Colo. with his three siblings, Cassidy, Presley and Wyatt. Growing up in a big family, Azarcon admits he was stubborn at a young age and would regularly get himself in trouble with his friends around the neighborhood.

“We would ding-dong ditch houses and mess with golfers on the course near our elementary school – I had my fun in elementary school,” he said. “Needless to say we had the cops called on us a few times, but never got into serious trouble. Just rebellious boys looking for fun. It taught me a lot and is the reason for why I stay away from any trouble.”

Azarcon may have been defiant at a young age, but his mother’s willingness to allow him and his siblings to make their own mistakes was key for Stone. He credits her for helping him mature as a young man.

“She’s compassionate and caring, but has a tough side to her as well,” he said. “Growing up, if I fell, she never helped me up or babied any of us. She taught us how to get up on our own and had us learn that sometimes you’d have to persevere alone. She’s a great mother and was someone who instilled mental toughness in my mind at a very young age. She gave me freedom and knew that if she hid the world from me, I’d find the frightening and cold truths on my own.”

“She let me be me, and I matured pretty quickly at a young age from some of the things I saw. Any thoughts or ideas I have go through her. She’s always someone that supports whatever I put my mind to. She’s a woman that will never ask why I want to do something, but how I am going to do it.”

As Azarcon got older, sports became important and he knew his passion was football, despite being a talented basketball player as well. Azarcon played football at Juan Diego High School in Draper, Utah, catching the eye of college coaches.

He was a two-time all-state and all-region cornerback for Juan Diego, earning first-team honors as a senior and leading his team to back-to-back state championships. While he knew college football was in his future, he also kept his never surrender mentality to go for what he wanted.

“I was always going to play college football, it was just a matter of where,” he said. “I was recruited by some smaller schools, but I was still pretty hardheaded in high school. I was going to play for a big time, Division I program and nothing else was ever an option back then.”

Azarcon’s dream came true when Utah’s defensive coordinator, Morgan Scalley, offered him a preferred walk-on spot with the Utes. That offer, like everything else in his life, has helped him push himself even more.

“I fully believe that I should be a scholarship player, but that’s not up to me,” Azarcon said. “It drives me to work that much harder and compete in everything with a chip on my shoulder.”

In 2016 though prior to Azarcon’s recruitment to the U, his family struggled through an ordeal that involved his older brother Wyatt. After being incarcerated for over eight months that year, he was avoiding warrants for his arrest and was living in Oregon working for a legal marijuana facility – willing to do anything to stay out of jail.

“I can only imagine the stress he was going through,” Azarcon said. “The pain that he woke up to and fought each and every day.”

Azarcon came to campus as a true freshman for the 2017 season. It was a normal night that year, Coach Scalley had taken the defense to go bowling and he was enjoying his time with his teammates like the college athlete he had dreamed of becoming.

It was then that Azarcon noticed he had multiple missed calls from his father. When he got back to his car, he called his father back. His brother had overdosed on heroin and passed away.

It was then that his world came crashing down.

“For months, I didn’t want to talk, eat, or really do anything besides sleep,” he said. “I felt every emotion, from pain and anger, to just complete despair.”

Azarcon’s sudden loss of his brother was devastating, but his bond with the Utah football program eventually helped him realize he had gained a new family by coming to Salt Lake City.

“My best friends and teammates, Javelin Guidry and Jaylen Dixon were huge in helping through it all,” he said. “Blood couldn’t make us any closer, so it was like I had two more brothers helping me deal with everything. Coach Scalley and the staff were always available for me and I knew they were all by my side.”

Years have passed since Wyatt’s passing and Azarcon has a new outlook on life, one of sympathy and acceptance. He has also gotten several tattoos to symbolize his brother, including the chemical structure for the drug of heroin on his forearm.

“To me, it represents that everyone we encounter is fighting something,” Azarcon said. “Whether they have an abusive partner, can’t afford to eat at night, struggle to find meaning in life, or have just lost a loved one – we never know what someone is going through. The death of my brother has taught me a lot, and I know he is proud of the man I am today.”

Since the 2017 season, Azarcon has made an impact on the Utah football program as a special teams player, back-up safety and has been a leader in the locker room as well. As a sophomore during Utah’s Pac-12 South Title run, he played in nine games and earned a spot on the Pac-12 All-Academic honor roll.

"My dawg Stone is a very humble, hard worker that understands and approaches the game the right way. But even more than that, he is a great person to hang around and a great friend that can help you with anything."

- Javelin Guidry

When Azarcon looks back at his decision to come to the U., one thing sticks out above others, especially when he thinks of losing his brother.

“I wanted to come to the U. because Coach Scalley gave me an opportunity that no other coach was willing to,” he said. “I wanted to play for a coach that was straight up, and also treated me like one of his own children. He coaches and lives with a chip on his shoulder, and he’s instilled that in me as well.”

“I used to have an attitude where I thought I deserved things or things would be given to me because of a certain position I held and he completely wiped that mentality out of my head. He has taught me that everything in this world must be earned, not given. He taught me to always be hungry.”

“Scalley taught me to always be on the prowl for ways to improve – both on the field and in my personal life. He always tells us that in order to be great or recognized, you must add more value than you receive in payment. I take that quote to heart and feel that as a walk-on, this is the attitude you must have.”

Azarcon’s determination and hard work has paid off as he continues to get more reps with the junior excited to start another season with the Utes.

Azarcon admits the chip on his shoulder will always remain while he chases his dreams, but his time with the Utes has provided a bond that he will cherish for the rest of his life.

“Few people on this planet will ever experience a bond as closely as we players do,” he said. “Some of my best friends and teammates are from different states, countries and cultures all throughout the world. I have teammates who have lived completely different lives and upbringings than myself. My best friends are from all different religions, ethnicity, and backgrounds. Through that, I have made friends that will last a lifetime. I will always be grateful and Utah football will always be a place I can call home, and a tribe that I’ll forever be connected to.”