2,890 miles away from Cedar City, on the island of O’ahu, there is a place called Niu Valley. This is the place I called home. I lived there my entire life before coming to Southern Utah University to play wide receiver for the Thunderbirds.
Leaving home was one of the hardest experiences I have ever gone through, as I’m sure it is for many first-year college students.
Countless thoughts ran through my head as I sat on a plane headed to Cedar City, Utah.
How was I going to live without my sister, who was my best friend? What would life be like without parents telling me to take out the trash or mow the lawn?
Luckily, I wasn’t about making friends, because I knew that waiting for me in Cedar was a new family away from home; 100 brothers that shared my same passion for the game of football and countless of other people who would be following the team’s success on the field.
Football has helped me make some of the best friends of my life. There is something special about a bunch of guys playing the game they love, not only for themselves, but for each other.
From the moment I landed in Cedar, my life has been all football, all the time. A lot of people don’t understand the vigorous schedule of a Division I athlete. We are required to arrive in Cedar at the end of May, three months before the rest of the students come for fall semester.
At either 6 a.m. or 8 a.m. every morning during the summer, we meet to lift and run. Athletes are some of the only college students in the town for the majority of the summer, and that pushes us players to make bonds with each other.
It’s special because it’s a bond that’s formed completely separate from school, our homes, our families or other avenues of social connection.
We bond over our struggles. We bond over our growth. We bond over the game.
It’s so relieving to know no matter how hard I am hurting during a workout, I have a group of guys to my left and to my right who are experiencing the same pain. Seeing a teammate exert every ounce of energy they have for the betterment of the team is really something special.
I love football. It is a beautiful game. The details involved in every single play are astounding and they are the reason I appreciate the game so much. But with all that being said, I love football because of the friendships I have made throughout the years.
It is very comforting to know that going into every year of my life I will be able to see old friends and make new friends simply because I am a part of a team.
Football didn’t just make my transition to college relatively easy, but it has provided me with hundreds of brothers and lifelong friendships.
Football gave me a new home.
Story by: Judd Cockett for SUU News
Photo by: SUU Athletics Strategic Communication