First in a Generation

By Javon Scruggs

Not everybody comes from the same walk of life or faces the same circumstances. You take the cards given to you in this world and figure out how to play your best hand.

Growing up, I shared the same house with as many as 11 other family members. Three bedrooms and two baths—it was a pretty crazy situation.

But honestly, all of us being cramped up like that brought us closer together. We didn’t really have much. So we never took anything for granted. We just took and ran with every opportunity we had as a family.

Being a part of an environment like that, I don’t know—I guess it made me value all of the little things in life. Also, it’s an everyday reminder that no matter the circumstances in life, I won’t be defeated. I’ll always find a way to pick myself up and keep going.

That mentality earned me an opportunity to play Division I football at Liberty University. It made me the first person in my family to ever go to college.

Without the love I have for the people in that household, none of this would be possible.

Finding my why

My family is my why for everything I do in life, whether it’s in football or the classroom. I just want to be the role model my little brothers can look up to on and off the field.

I’m pretty much the father we never had, you know? I’m that father figure for my little brothers, and my mom is that mother and father figure for me. I’ve always taken it upon myself to step up and try to fill that role the best I can.

They all motivate me to keep going, and I try to motivate them as well by being the first person in our family to go to college.

It isn’t just about putting myself up there on a pedestal for an accomplishment, either.

Looking back at the situation I came from, I’m proud of myself for finding an opportunity to better my future—not just for me, but for the people around me. We used to say people don’t go to college in our family.

Not anymore.

If I can do it, I’m sure others will follow in my footsteps. I want to break that cycle for my family, and I want more of us to extend our education and opportunities in life to be successful.

My biggest fans

I can already see that passion in my brothers to pursue whatever they want in life and not give up. One of my brothers graduated, and now, he’s going to go get a trade. He sees the good in life that can come with an education.

My younger brother still plays high school football, and he’s taking it more serious now than ever before. He saw what I was able to do with my passion and love for the game, and he’s looking to push himself towards doing the same.

Words can’t describe the love I have for them and how they push me to be better, even to this day. They’re my biggest fans.

Not long ago, my brother rushed home after his game on a Friday night to catch our game against Syracuse because he really wanted to see me play. He sent me a text and was like, “I’m so proud of you, and I love you. I just love to see you get the opportunity to play at that level.”

It’s hard not to get emotional when reading something like that.

Man, there’s no replacing that kind of love and support from family. I see how much my brothers look up to me and how much of an impact I have on their lives. It just reminds me that I have to keep going, too.

They’re not giving up in their lives. Why should I give up in mine?

My family is my why for everything I do in life, whether it’s in football or the classroom. I just want to be the role model my little brothers can look up to on and off the field.

No pressure on these shoulders

I’ve been asked if I feel pressure from being the first person in my family to go to college and that role model for my brothers to look up to.

The truth is I don’t feel any pressure at all because this is my why.

It’s my reason for getting those extra reps in the weight room.

It’s why I push myself on the football field at every practice and game.

It’s the reason I put in that extra effort in the classroom.

Your why is supposed to be the driving factor for what you do in life.

If your why is putting too much pressure on you, then sometimes, it might not be your why.

No, it shouldn’t be a hindrance to your progress. It should be the one thing you use as a reason to keep going.

You think about who you’re playing for and the people you have to take care of. So you keep on fighting and striving for success, even if it gets stressful sometimes.

If anything, my family gives me a little extra confidence and motivation every time I go out there. I’m doing whatever I can to be the best version of myself for them.

The family portrait

One of my best memories with my family in college was moving day as a freshman.

I can still remember how excited I was to really make this whole college journey official.

And all of my family was right there by my side.

My grandmother that I hadn’t heard from in years was even able to make it out. You use stuff like that as motivation, you know?

Just looking around and seeing all of my family there was like wow, man. They were all on board with everything happening in my life. We were all there that day, together.

Moments like that last a lifetime.

I’m hoping to have many more of them in some capacity or another.

Wherever life takes me, I know I still want to be around football. I hope to become a coach once my playing days are over so I can pass on some of the things I’ve learned to the next generation.

I’ve been through it and seen firsthand the lessons football teaches a young man. This sport prepares you for the real world. The adversities and how you get up and answer those challenges—that’s what you face out there.

I just want to give back to the kids that were like me and didn’t grow up with anything—you know, the ones that’ll take any opportunity they can get.

The ones I know won’t take it for granted.

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