One Last Ride

By DJ Stubbs

This is for everyone that helped get me here!

Through the blood, sweat, and tears—everything that I’ve been through with my brothers is the reason why I came back.

On one hand, I had the dream of pursuing an NFL career staring me right in the face, and on the other, there was an opportunity to return to Liberty for a sixth year for one last ride with my best friends.

One last ride with the fellas.

One last ride with the Flames.

One last ride with the best fans in college football.

Our motto this year is to stand firm, be courageous, be strong, and do everything out of love. I’m going to ride with those words until my last snap on that football field. They say “go big or go home,” right?

Being back at school, man, I’d say I’m already home. So, I guess there’s only one thing left to do.

Let’s run it back

I’m beyond excited to see what we can do as a team after everything we accomplished last season. That squad did something that I haven’t seen since high school, you know?

We won a lot of games!

Finishing 10-1 on the season, ending with a No. 17 ranking in the AP Poll and winning a Bowl game—we accomplished things I watched on TV and dreamt about as a kid.

It was a great accomplishment, but I wouldn’t say it was surprising.

I never step onto that field expecting to lose, you know? I go into every season with the belief that we’re going to be a very good team and win games. That’s just my mental approach to everything. But you also learn that winning football games at this level isn’t easy, man.

We started out 3-0 in my first year here, and I remember just taking for granted the fact that we were winning. I thought we were going to keep going in that direction, and then we ended the season at 6-5 that year.

So, while I’m definitely proud of last season, I also know everything starts anew this year. We’re starting from scratch, and I couldn’t be happier to be doing it alongside my brothers on this team.

Putting the dream on hold

I always knew there was a chance of me coming back.

It was a decision that I ultimately came to for myself. After the season, I got contacted by an agent suggesting I consider declaring for the NFL Draft this year. He told me I’d have a real shot at landing on a team.

It wasn’t until I spoke with an NFL liaison that I realized that wasn’t the right move for me. Besides, I was also pretty late in the process at that time.

I’ve dreamt my entire life of making it out and playing in the NFL. It’s the dream of every kid that puts on a helmet. The best part about everything is my family trusted me to make that decision—to stay at college or turn pro.

My mom especially wanted to make sure she helped me as much as she could, while also letting me make my own decisions. I really appreciate that.

I ultimately decided it was a great idea for me to stay and take advantage of having another year to get it right. I’m always looking to improve myself in everything I do. Be better than I was yesterday, whether that’s on or off the field—that’s how I choose to live my life.

I really want to take it to the next level and show these people what I can do. I want to make it hard for them to keep me off the field.

But most of all, I want one last hurrah with my teammates.

Just to have another year with my guys is the top reason for me coming back. If I left, I would have never played with these guys again. I’m just eternally grateful to have this one last opportunity to ball out with my brothers—the ones that came in with me and the ones that came after me.

So, while I’m definitely proud of last season, I also know everything starts anew this year. We’re starting from scratch, and I couldn’t be happier to be doing it alongside my brothers on this team.

For everyone that believed

My goal this season is to leave everything on the field and continue paying it forward to younger players on the team.

It feels good when guys come up to you and tell you how your actions have impacted them in their approach to the game or life. It’s something I never even realized I was doing until it was brought to my attention.

But that’s just it, I don’t think about encouraging someone else for cool points or anything like that. I just do it, man.

It’s who I am as a person.

If I’m succeeding, I want the next person to succeed as well. Why would I want to be the only one succeeding?

It even goes back to my desire to play in the NFL. There’s only one reason for that goal and one reason alone: to help my family get their dreams off the ground.

My mom wants to have a juice bar back at home, and my brother needs his own shop to go with his tint service. I’m in this for things like that.

I just want to give back to everybody that helped me along the way—from my family, to my AAU coaches, to my Pop Warner coaches, to my high school coaches, to everybody that ever stood beside me.

I’m not just doing this for me.

I’m doing this for them.




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