Former Bradwell Institute and Georgia State University football player Ulrick John was back home in Hinesville on Friday helping raise funds for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life Team Liberty.
John was at South Georgia Bank throughout the day signing autographs and having his picture taken with his fans, collecting donations in the process to benefit the ACS.
The 6-foot-5-inch, 300-pound tackle is the first Liberty County native to be selected in the NFL draft. John was picked by the Indianapolis Colts in the seventh round.
John said his mother, Jay Long Kesner, asked for his help in raising funds for the Liberty County Relay for Life team. Because he was already home for a quick break, John said he was pleased he could offer his help for a great cause.
His mom said the event was a big success, netting $600 for Relay for Life.
He added that it felt great to be back in Hinesville.
“I love being here and being with all of my family. … I get to hang out with my friends, and nothing has changed. Even though I’m in the NFL, they are still the same people and they act the same towards me,” he said, noting it sometimes feels weird when someone he knows from high school asks for his autograph.
John was placed on the Colts’ injured reserve list after breaking his ankle in their first preseason game last year, against the New York Jets. During his time off, he went back to Georgia State to complete the last few courses and internships he need to get his exercise science degree.
And, of course, he took time to let his ankle heal so he can battle for a spot on the Colts this coming season.
“Every year, every guy is trying out for the team again, and I feel since I was on injured reserves I have to work harder to prove that even though I broke my ankle, I still can go out there and perform,” he said, adding that he feels great about his workouts. “I’ve been working hard, squatting and trying to get my legs back under me and maintaining my upper body strength, but I feel like I’m back at 100 percent and I am ready to go.”
His goal is to start or be the main backup for the offensive line this year — not an easy task when competing among the best in the NFL.
But John said he is up to the task and offers solid advice to up-and-coming players looking to achieve their NFL dreams.
“You got to put everything you got into it,” he said. “If it is really everything you want, then you will make the necessary sacrifices … going to class every day, getting your education, doing all the extra stuff off the field that will help you when you are on the field. … You have to be smart to play this sport. … Do everything to the best of your ability, and don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.”