The 5:15am alarm has always made me wonder what my punishment would be if I just skipped one day of weights. The intimidating roar of Coach Smith yelling “GO!” as I run another sprint always makes the thought of quitting cross my mind. And the quick glance at 1:45am on my iHome as I return from a flight from Florida State sends thoughts of skipping class through my head.
As I glanced at the National Letter of Intent (NLI) on signing day, I could do nothing but thank God for making my dream come true. It was a day full of emotions, but the one emotion that I will always remember is the knots in my stomach and the lump in my throat after hearing the repetition of “You’re signing your life away” and “I hope you’re ready for the next level.”
These comments played through my head everyday, during every workout, every meal, and every sleepless night. The constant thought of the unknown, the nervousness, and the fear of leaving home filled my head and made even the smallest task hard to focus on.
The one question that I get asked in almost every conversation about college when I return home is, “What keeps you going through the tough times?” and my answer is always, “the free education.”
What keeps me going are my Grandmothers. I don’t go a week without talking to my SugarFoot, Grandma Lil. SugarFoot never fails to call and put a smile on my face with a funny story and a great memory that I’ll never forget. She keeps me up to date with the latest news back home and never fails to remind me how much my Dad misses me. The conversations can never end without an “I love you” and a reminder to “Keep your grades and your panties up.”
My sweet Grandma Mary never forgets to call and make sure I didn’t forget about her because of my busy schedule. I will never forget the moment when I saw my Grandma Mary as I walked out of the locker room at the Georgia Tech game in Clemson gear, tears started to well up in my eyes.
After making my way over to her, we shared a hug and the words of “Grandma is so proud of you” sent chills down my spine.
The race to see who can text “Good Morning” first between my SuggaMan (my Daddy) and I, the random “I love you” text messages from Girl (my Mom), the sweet “I miss you” text messages from The Queen (my sister), and the constant sports updates from Brudder (my brother) is what keeps me going.
Being able to look in the stands and see the smiles and the looks of approval on my parents’ faces, the exciting moments when Girl can’t contain her claps and yells, and the disapproving yells from SuggaMan when I miss a layup is what keeps me going. Most college kids don’t talk to their parents every night while they’re away, but it’s the little things like the nightly FaceTime calls with my family that keeps me going. Their relationship with God, constant prayers, and random visits is what keeps me going.
What keeps me going is my alma mater, George Walton Academy. The most amazing feeling in the world running through the tunnel at Georgia Tech and seeing the stands full of the people who have watched me, encouraged me, taught me, played with me, coached me, and pushed me through my years at GWA.
I was always approached at games and school by families who promised to come watch me play at the next level, but I didn’t think that it would be as large of a crowd as it was. I am thankful and truly blessed by the support that my family at GWA showed me during this amazing stage of my life and it is moment that I will never forget.
He’s been so supportive of my dream since day one and so patient through everything that I’ve had to endure. He’s listened to me complain about how sore, tired, and drained I am almost every day. He’s listened to my tears from being homesick, hurt, and even a little hormonal.
He’s put a smile on my face through every situation, makes me cry from laughter, and never fails to make me happy. But the most important thing that Eli does that keeps me going is his constant prayers. When I feel like I don’t know where to turn he constantly reminds me to stay strong in my faith and take all my worries to God.
The decision to become a college athlete has had its ups and downs, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve traveled to amazing places, met some incredible people, and I’ve pushed myself through any limits that have been set. My freshman year taught me so much about myself and life in general and these lessons will continue to carry me through life.
The most important lesson that I’ve learned so far is that an 8 minute nap is just as effective as a 30 minute nap.