Ogden • As a single father dealing with a strong-willed daughter, Ted Stanley pleaded for some cooperation to make their lives manageable.
"Look," he told her, "you're going to have to help me."
Their conversation in early July was one-sided. Emmerson was 10 days old.
They were leaving Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, where their wife and mother, Jocelyn Prewitt-Stanley, 35, had died four days after the birth.
So here they are: Ted, beginning his first season as a Weber State assistant football coach with Saturday's game at Fresno State, and Emmerson, the coach's kid.
This is a story of a life lost, a life dramatically altered and a new life, filled with promises of support from a network of relatives, friends and football families.
"Whatever it takes," said Jody Sears, WSU's interim head coach, "we've got to get this little girl raised."
The sequence of events that brought the father and daughter to Utah began when Stanley lost 23 football games in a row. Having resigned as the head coach of Kenyon College, a Division III school in Ohio, he landed at Weber State in February.
That fortuitous move enables Stanley, 42, and his baby to live with his mother, Mary Ann, in his childhood home in Salt Lake City.
At 73, she's the primary caretaker of an infant, who joined her household with two 95-pound labradors. On a recent morning, Brownstone and Jackson playfully mauled a visitor as Mary Ann sighed and said good-naturedly, "I'm in way over my head."
Two young women have been enlisted to help her for a few hours a day. Stanley's parents are divorced, but remain close friends, devoted to Emmerson. "We're doing what any parents would do," said Stanley's father, also named Ted.
During preseason practice, the coach drove 44 miles daily to Ogden and back, leaving early and returning late. His schedule, which eases only slightly during the season, leaves him little opportunity to help with his daughter. When he comes home, he gazes at her sleeping and wonders if he's properly nurturing her. His mother assures him that feeling never will go away.
The job description that's making fatherhood more challenging is exactly what keeps him going, though. "I don't know if I could do this without football," he said.
Standing in the tunnel of Weber State's Stewart Stadium, calmly describing what happened to his wife, Stanley paused. "It wouldn't surprise me," he said, "if she walked out on the field right now."
That would be just like Jocelyn, who mixed intelligence and ambition with an outgoing personality. She defied the forecast of a high school counselor in Cleveland that she never could qualify for admission to a school such as Grinnell College in Iowa. She became a litigation attorney for a major firm in Columbus, while promoting diversity in the profession as an African-American.
Asked to describe his wife, Stanley scrolls through his phone and shows a photo of her with a huge smile. That's how she's remembered at Vorys, Slater, Seymour and Pease. Beyond her success in the courtroom, Jocelyn was one of those people who "just makes you feel better when you're around her," said Carl Smallwood, a partner in the firm.
Carlin Shoemaker, who played and coached under Stanley at Kenyon, cited Jocelyn's "quiet confidence" and aura. "She very well could be the smartest person in the room," he said, "but she would never make you think that way."
She was devoted to her career while supporting her husband's passion for football. After all, they never would have met if not for a decision during his career as a Grinnell running back. He wanted to be a coach, not a doctor, like his father and older brother.
So the Skyline High School graduate came home and worked in entry-level jobs at the University of Utah for five years under former coach Ron McBride. Among his duties: mixing the mud McBride used for a pregame ritual. "I love the guy," McBride said. "He's one of my all-time favorite people. I mean, he busted his butt for me."
Stanley returned to Grinnell in 1998 as the defensive line coach. He became friends with admissions counselor Jocelyn Prewitt, hoping to help football recruits get into the school. She made no such concessions, but gave into his romantic pursuits, with a strategy built around the milkshakes at Dairy Barn.
They married in 2005, after the relationship lasted through law school for her and other coaching stops for him. She became a rising legal star while he kept trying to build Kenyon's program. The school's elite academic culture made winning difficult and losing tolerable to administrators, not him. Following consecutive 0-10 seasons, Stanley resigned in November after nine years, then got a job coaching Weber State's tight ends.
He came to Ogden for spring practice, then returned to Ohio to accompany his wife through the birth. The due date was July 1. On June 21, the day after another healthy checkup, Jocelyn complained of a severe headache and stomach pain, symptoms of eclampsia.
The treatment revolves around delivery, which went smoothly that night and usually addresses the mother's health issues. Jocelyn was able to hold Emmerson and recognize a daughter (the couple had guessed a boy was coming), but her condition soon worsened. Some combination of cardiac arrest, blood pressure changes and seizures eventually proved fatal.
The child's name tells her life story. Her parents had chosen Emmerson for a girl, while never deciding on a boy's name. Stanley added Jocelyn to honor his wife, even knowing she would not have approved. Believing the hospital staff did all it could, he also listed Christina in a tribute to an ICU nurse, Chris Lucas.
Two months later, friends keep asking Stanley how they can help, and he's not sure. One suggestion would be to cheer for the Wildcats, because this is how a motorcycle accident in Arkansas ultimately affects a baby in Utah: In April, Bobby Petrino was fired as the Arkansas coach amid scandal, then John L. Smith having hired Stanley in Ogden replaced Petrino. Sears was appointed WSU's interim coach, recognizing the staff must win this season to be retained.
So Emmerson is not the only person whom Stanley needs to cooperate in the interest of family stability.
"We'll try to make his life easy by doing our part on and off the field," said tight end Brian Jankowski, a Wildcat co-captain.
Stanley's wife and daughter would have stayed in Ohio this season, before making any decision about moving. Jocelyn told him, "We'll make it work, somehow."
That's what Ted and Emmerson are doing, without her.
Coming up Weber State versus Fresno State
P The Wildcats open their season tonight in Fresno at 8 p.m.