Former Bradwell Institute football player Ulrick John was honored by Mayor Jim Thomas on Thursday for being the first Hinesville native to be drafted by a National Football League team.
Thomas declared May 10 as Ulrick John “Follow Your Dreams” Day. The mayor read the formal proclamation during a ceremony held at city hall. Thomas also handed John an honorary key to the city.
John was selected May 10 by the Indianapolis Colts with the 232th pick of the draft.
“I really want to thank my mom,” John said. “Ever since I was little, she really pushed me to work hard at everything I do. She is the main reason … her and my brother … I am trying to be as great of a man as I can be … my mom did a really good job in raising me — by herself most of the time. It’s a real honor to be in this situation, and I will do the best that I can to make our city proud.”
According to the proclamation, John was 9 years old when he started playing football and immediately fell in love with the sport. He played for the Liberty County Recreation Department for six years and made the all-star roster almost every year.
At Bradwell, John played under former coach Jim Walsh Jr. and was a varsity starter by his sophomore year. During John’s BI career, he helped pave the way for the Tigers’ 2,000 rushing yards and twice made the All-Region First Team.
“I’ve had a lot of people from Hinesville helping me out,” John said about his football career. “Coach Walsh, especially … he was the biggest help that I had … he really believed in me … he told me my freshman year I would be the starter in my sophomore season, and he wasn’t lying, and we built my career after that.” John played at Georgia State, where he became the Panthers’ top lineman the past two seasons and was an All-Sun Belt Conference honorable mention selection last year.
He played in 36 games, with 25 career starts, and became only the second Georgia State player drafted by an NFL team.
“It’s a great honor … just knowing that I helped build a foundation in trying to get guys from my college into the league,” John said. “Teams will see that we have talent there … and they will find guys that are willing to get the job done at the next level.”
“I am so proud of him. He just continues to amaze me every day,” John’s mother, Jay Long Kesner, said, shrugging off the credit her son gave her during the ceremony. “He did this all on his own. I just made sure he made to practice on time.”
John reports to the Colts training camp in two weeks and plans to leave next week to make a stop in California beforehand to visit his girlfriend and to train for camp. He was spotted this week at Bradwell working out with the football team.
John said the biggest adjustment between college and professional football is the speed of the game. He also said the Colts coaching staff want him to add weight.
“They want me at 310-315 (pounds),” he said. “I’m at 305 now, so I’m still working on getting there, and I am working on adding just more muscle.”
Kesner said she worries about her son.
“We have until the beginning of September to find out if he makes the team or not,” she said. “My biggest worry is that he goes up there and forgets who he is. We moved here in 1997, and we stayed here because it is a small, tight-knit community and I want him to keep that with him … but he is doing good so far.”