That Time I … played a professional sport

Diavanti Bedford is a graduate student pursuing his master’s degree in higher education administration. He is a member of the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. and serves as the graduate assistant in the office of student media.

On May 26, 2011, I graduated from Liberty High School in Kissimmee, Florida. This was an exciting time because my friends and I were pursuing our dreams of higher education and sports. I knew then that I was going to college to become an athletic trainer. Only a month prior in April, I signed my letter of intent to run for the track and field team at Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida.

While in high school I participated in football as well as track and always saw myself playing football at the collegiate level. When it came down to it, after reviewing my options, Florida Southern College offered the money I needed to pursue higher education.

Once I arrived on campus, I started watching football every Sunday with my floor mates, playing flag football intramurals and was a coaching intern for the Junior Varsity Lakeland High School football team. My love for the sport was greater than it ever was. I started regretting settling for Florida Southern and felt I should’ve gone somewhere else to play on a football team.

Some time later, I heard that the the city of Lakeland was getting their first professional football team. I went to the first meeting, only to find out that the Lakeland Raiders were being formed and we were set to have a season in the spring of 2012. The Raiders were scheduled to play in the United Indoor Football League (UIFL) which at the time hosted 11 teams. UIFL also had exhibition games versus Arena Football League (AFL) teams.

So, over winter break I took some time off of my track workouts to get myself back into shape for playing football so I could be ready for the tryouts in February. When I arrived at tryouts, I was shocked because I didn’t know I had to pay $250 just to try out. I also needed to have my own equipment. The coaching staff said this was a requirement so they could see who was serious to begin making cuts immediately.

However, the coaching staff allowed me to participate in non-contact activity that day and at the end of practice, they were so impressed with my athleticism, that they waived my fee and bought equipment for me. Tryouts went on for two weeks. In the end, I was able to make the team and I signed my first — and only — professional football contract. I was the youngest player on the team at 18, while the next youngest person was 24.

After a month of practice, we traveled to Orlando and I played my first professional game. I was number three on the depth chart so I didn’t expect too much playing time. But, I ended up playing a total of six snaps, which was six more than I expected to play so I was happy.

In the third game I’d moved to the second position on the depth chart, so I got a chance to see a lot of playing time. By my final two games, I was playing as the starter; and I played phenomenally — if I do say so myself.

The interesting piece to the story was I had to play in secret because I signed a letter of intent to run track at Florida Southern College and was in danger in losing my scholarship if someone found out. So, as the season progressed I was wearing myself down from track practice in the morning, clinical hours and class in the day, and football practice in the evening. My body just couldn’t handle all of that at one time.

In my second collegiate track meet I partially tore my hamstring. In our eleven game season I had to miss two games because they conflicted with my track schedule and the final football season game due to injury.

With all that was going on, I realized that I needed to make some changes. I ended up transferring to another university and found myself wanting to become more involved in my community rather than pursuing sports. Eventually, that led me here to NSU, where I work as the graduate assistant for student media. I guess it just goes to show that sometimes in life you have to get to your breaking point to find out what you’re really made of.

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