Hungry For More

By Elijah James

It would not be an exaggeration to say that football changed my life.

It all started with my father.

He just wanted me to get into shape and have good physical health as a kid. Through that, I found football. And through football, I found friends, structure, and fun.

I was able to have fun with kids my age without having to talk or communicate that much and, being that I was a shy kid, that helped me a lot.

It’s tough being shy. This world feels like it’s built for charismatic out-going people, and as a person who keeps to himself, that can be a discouraging assumption to make.

As I continued to pursue my football career at a Junior College in Council Bluffs, Iowa, I had a rough last semester, and it felt like I was being looked over. All the schools that showed interest in me weren’t talking to me anymore. It felt like everyone turned their back on me, and I was alone.

Not Coach Symons and Coach Aldridge, though.

They always kept in contact with me. They cared about me, Elijah James, the person, not just Elijah James, the football player. They made sure I was doing well in school and doing well in life. I could tell their care was authentic, it was real, it was raw.

It allowed me to feel welcome and safe, and I knew they were reaching out and talking to me because they had my best interest in hand, which meant a lot to me at a time when it felt like the world, especially the football world, didn’t care about me anymore.

So, when my JUCO career came to a close, there really only was one school I wanted to go to anymore — Liberty University.

I wanted to become a part of the Liberty family. It was obvious that there was no better place for me to be. I knew they had a great program, they cared about me on and off the field, and I was ready to give my all and find out what I could do at the next level.

Growing day by day

I knew going to Liberty and playing D1 football would be a challenge, but it was harder than I thought.

My shyness was put to the test! I struggled at first.

Being a student-athlete at Liberty means being part of a family, and family cares about one another. People wondered why I was so quiet! Back then, I just liked to keep to myself a lot, you know? And frankly, part of me still does today.

But, deep down, I knew I didn’t come to Liberty to just do the same things — I came to grow and to become a better person and player.

The coaching staff was tremendous in helping me with this transformation. You don’t hear about those kinds of things in the media or give coaches enough credit for personal development. Most of the time, it’s about the win-loss column for a lot of people. But in my case, man, I can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am for my coaches’ support.

They never pushed but always encouraged me to be my best self. They told me that they didn’t want me to change who I was, but if I would just be a bit more vocal, I could be a leader. I could help the team even more.

So, I came out of my shell a bit.

I talked more with my peers and strengthened my bond with my teammates. It really helped the chemistry we had as a team last year, which played a huge role in our success.

Frankly, it’s what made last year’s team so special, in my opinion.

The block

Last season is full of memories I’ll never forget. No doubt.

But the one I’ll probably think about most is the field goal block against Coastal Carolina to win the Cure Bowl.

I’ve been asked about this one so many times, but there is still a lot I want to say about this play.

In moments like that, game-defining, season-defining moments, I’ve heard athletes say time slows down. For me, it felt like it sped up. It was such a blur, and it happened so fast it’s like my instincts just took over.

I didn’t have time to be nervous or overthink. I just reacted, and the play happened. In fact, I didn’t even know I was the player who blocked the field goal! I thought my teammate did!

It was only after I talked to teammates and watched the film that I was certain that I did, in fact, block it.

That victory was euphoric.

We worked so hard all season long to get to that point, and to win a Bowl Game was surreal. It was a fitting end to an incredible, historic season.

Most importantly, the win felt like it was truly our win.

Not just the players and the coaches, but it was for everyone associated with Liberty. The students, the faculty, the school workers, everyone. I really felt like we were playing for all of them.

I truly felt that right before the kick went off, and I blocked that field goal. The energy and emotion that we had after that play is indescribable. I was near tears when I embraced this moment with my teammates.

I wanted to become a part of the Liberty family. It was obvious that there was no better place for me to be. I knew they had a great program, they cared about me on and off the field, and I was ready to give my all and find out what I could do at the next level.

Ready for 2021/2022

This season is different, though.

It feels like we’re building off of last season’s success and won’t be satisfied unless we do more. We want to play better, be better, do better.

We don’t want to just win either; we want to play to the best of our ability.

We want to reach our highest level. To absolutely dominate on the field and be the best team to ever represent Liberty. We are not satisfied. We are hungry for more, and we want everyone who’s part of the Liberty family to come join us on this journey.

We’ll see you Saturday!

The best is yet to come.

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