Saturdays were my favorite days as a kid growing up in Columbia, South Carolina. Saturdays meant college football. Saturdays meant watching crowds of people making their way down the tree lined streets towards Williams-Brice Stadium, home of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Saturdays meant waiting in my front yard to hear the roar of the crowd as the team ran onto the field. Saturdays meant dreaming about the day that I would be one of those players.
I loved to play outside and could often be found climbing trees, playing baseball, and racing remote control cars. I especially loved to be outside on crisp, sunny fall days so I could partake in the excitement of college football. My family home was only a couple blocks away from the Gamecocks stadium. It was exciting to see thousands of people gathering and chanting team cheers along their walk to the stadium. I would grab my football and rush outside to play with my friends and run along with the spectators descending onto campus. Once the game began, we would play our own game of football in the streets and pretend that the cheers erupting from the stadium were for our great plays and touchdowns!
As I grew older, sports became an integral part of my life. One of my best memories is going to watch a local baseball team called the Capital City Bombers with one of grandfathers. I loved going to the games and baseball quickly became on of my favorite sports. One summer night as I played outside with my friends I looked up towards the sky and saw hundreds of sparkling stars. I searched the sky for the brightest one and made a wish to become a professional baseball player. From that moment, I dreamed of chasing down fly balls and hitting home runs as a major league player.
When I reached high school, I played both baseball and football, but I favored my position as an outfielder on the baseball team. My coaches encouraged me to focus on my academics and practice hard at my sports because they felt I had a lot of athletic talent and could one day play at a higher level. I took their advice to heart remembering my love of Saturdays and the wish I made one night as a young child.
Towards the end of high school, I was drafted by one of the major league teams to play professional baseball. Unfortunately, I did not think the terms of their proposal would work well for me, so I turned the deal down. After declining the offer, I decided that I would try to play football at the collegiate level.
One of the challenges I faced was that I had only taken the SAT (a college entrance exam) once during my senior year and did not pass. Because there was a deadline for college admissions, I did not have enough time to retake the exam and submit my applications for the upcoming school year. I ended up working at a local retail store and studying for the SAT following my high school graduation. I was determined to keep striving towards my goals.
I ended up passing the SAT and was accepted at the University of South Carolina (the college just a couple blocks away from my home) the following year. I still wanted to play a college sport and decided to walk-on the football team. During my freshman year, I was not as focused as I should have been and ended up red-shirting that season. The next season I ended up getting injured and was out for the remaining games that year. It was very frustrating, but my coaches encouraged me to stay motivated and keep a positive attitude. When the next season rolled around, I recalled my childhood dreams of playing in the exact stadium I was standing in as a college athlete and vowed to never give up on my goals and dreams.
I now play professional football for the Seattle Seahawks. My vision of catching baseballs was replaced with tackling running backs, but my dream of becoming a professional athlete has come true. The journey was not always easy, but with hard work and lots of extra effort I accomplished my goal. Saturdays still have special meaning because my dreams were sparked by the excitement of college football in South Carolina, but now Sundays are my favorite fall days filled with roaring fans and the excitement of Seahawks football