My career at Southern Utah University hasn’t been what I expected; it has been much better.
I only had one scholarship offer out of high school. Snow College wanted me, so I went there and was unexpectedly asked to redshirt. After deferring to serve a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I decided not to return to Snow.
I wanted to find a four-year university that I could call home. Luckily, one of my high school teammates was playing at SUU and suggested that I look into the school. After considering a few other options, I ended up walking-on at SUU in the spring of 2014.
At first, Cedar City didn’t feel like home.
Growing up in Vancouver, Washington, I was used to trees, rain, and rivers; not the dust, rocks, and dry air of Southern Utah. Luckily for me, football felt like home, so I could cope with the rest. Despite not having the scholarship I had planned on, and having to wear the same shirt that I borrowed from my roommate for lifting every day, I felt like I fit in with the team.
As spring and summer progressed, I worked my way up the depth chart and was in a position to start with two weeks left in camp before our first game.
Then the unexpected hit me.
In a simple tackling drill at practice, I fell and broke my fibula just above my ankle. I was disappointed, but the doctors said that since the fibula is not a weight-bearing bone, I could potentially play in 4-6 weeks. I worked hard to get back and about 6 weeks later I was ready to start my first college football game.
This time, I made it halfway through the first quarter before breaking my other fibula.
My season was over.
I had never been seriously injured playing football before, so I expected those two injuries to be freak accidents and I hoped that the worst was behind me. After a healthy sophomore season, I entered my junior year optimistic about my health and was excited about focusing on just playing football.
But it was not meant to be, as I tore my ACL in the third game of the 2016 season. After another long rehab process, I was able to play what I thought was my senior season.
But then some unexpected good news came: the coaches let me know that since I had missed two seasons to injury, I may be able to get a sixth year of eligibility due to medical hardship. After appealing to the NCAA, I was granted an extra year of eligibility.
All of this leads me to where I am now. I never expected to be a 26-year-old sixth-year senior or to break two bones and have three knee surgeries while playing football. I never planned on living in Cedar City, Utah and I never thought I would have to walk-on at an FCS football program.
I didn’t realize how much fun playing college football could be. I didn’t understand the sacrifice and effort it would take to win two Big-Sky championships and that, somehow, the feeling of winning those championships would make everything worth it.
I also hadn’t expected that I would make some of the best friends and build relationships with amazing teammates that I know will last a lifetime or to learn from some of the greatest men and coaches I have ever met.
I didn’t plan on being able to get two bachelor’s degrees and an MBA while playing football. I didn’t expect to fall in love with Cedar City and I definitely didn’t expect to meet my wife because of playing football at SUU.
I didn’t expect that SUU would have an impact on my life that would extend beyond the football field, but it has. I’m so grateful for everything I’ve learned and all of the positive experiences I’ve had.
Story by: Taylor Nelson for SUU News
Photo by: SUU Athletics Strategic Communciation