Leaps of Faith has become so much for me than what I originally planned it to be. I originally planned for it to be a way to show how ordinary people are doing some awesome things. Never once thinking that it will leave me in tears as I am writing each profile. I posted on twitter the other day that I love that God has blessed me with the ability to write profiles about others but this blessing has brought me to tears. This makes it hard to see the keyboard as I type. Leaps of Faith has become more than just a profile it has made me look at things in a different way and appreciate those I love and the people I come in contact with every day. I have also made some awesome friends in the process of this series. Ones that I think that God has placed in my life for His own reason.
Julius James is one of those people that I felt was placed in my path for that purpose. As many of you know that we as a family love soccer. My husband grew up watching soccer in his native country Mexico, and when our girls expressed a desire to play he was all for it. That love of soccer has led us to watch the Carolina Railhawks play on more than one occasion. We normally do not stay after the game for autographs but after the girls were able to get the Chivas USA players autographs after one of the games we started to stay. Who knew that staying after to grab an autograph, God would lead me to profile an extraordinary player like Julius? I started following him on twitter and made a reply to one of his tweets and the next thing I knew he was following me. His story is such an interesting one that I felt I had to share.
Julius first and foremost is an extremely nice and funny guy, even though you could never tell that by the way he plays on the soccer field. But as a defensive player, you can’t always be so nice because after all your entire main objective is to not let the other team score a goal. But anyone that follows the Railhawks or Julius on Twitter can see what a great sense of humor he has. This sense of humor plus his faith in God has gotten him through a lot of situations in his life. Also I would be remissed if I did not mention how the overwhelming support and love that he has received from his family during every step of this journey is what gets him through the rough times. A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Julius came to this country to attend college at the University of Connecticut and to pursue his dream of being a professional soccer player. If you are not familiar with Trinidad and Tobago it is an island country on the northern edge of South America. The country is just 1,980 square miles. Not a big country by all means, but if Julius is any indication what the people there are like than it is definitely a country with the biggest heart.
So imagine this, you are a young person leaving the only country you have known to travel to a strange massive land to attend a college where you do not know a soul accept for a great uncle who lives in New York and on top of that the climate is not exactly what you are used to. Going from a tropical island to a snowstorm is a culture shock in itself. Folks, I don’t know about you but I think that is a big leap of faith. I can honestly say that I don’t think I could have left my family to move to another country to make my dream come true, however there is always that “what if” question though.
Julius’s first year away from home was (as he put it) extremely difficult, he had been away from home before as part of the youth national team when he was 15-16 but at least he could travel back and forth to see his family. But attending the University of Connecticut, he did not have that luxury. Family is everything to him. As he so eloquently put it, “My family means the world to me and where my family is, is where my home is, until I get a family of my own.” Wow can imagine leaving your loved ones to pursue your dream in another country.
I asked him did always dream of being a soccer player and I was surprised by the answer. He was actually a swimmer before he started playing soccer. He stopped swimming for a while to take his high school entrance exam but when he started swimming again he “quickly realized that being good at something didn’t equate to being passionate about the same thing.. The moment I gave up swimming and started soccer I started dreaming of a future.” (This is when I will say that I see a similarity between him and my oldest daughter, who is also a swimmer, but soccer is her passion.) Folks his dream of a future started when he was 12 years old. Julius will admit at the beginning he was not very good, and as he put it he did A LOT of homework to make him into the player he is today.
I then asked him what the biggest challenge that he has faced. He said that dealing with getting traded while he was in the MLS (Major League Soccer). As he put it, “You are away from home and don’t have family, and you get close to your team mates and the city and you make friends there who become like family then you have to leave. ” As he said “It Sucks!!!” The answer kind of surprised but then I thought about it and realized that it really must be hard to make that adjustment no matter what age you are. I have lived in North Carolina my whole life so I cannot even imagine moving somewhere without family around to support me.
I asked Julius the question if you could not play soccer what would you be doing? He said that was a tough question. Having to answer that would be tough but where he grew up was a rough rough place, most of his friends have either be killed or incarcerated so if he didn’t start playing soccer when he did there is no telling what would happen. This part of the interview brought tears to my eyes, especially when he said, “GOD brought soccer into my life and saved me.” When you read the next couple of paragraphs you will realize how real and true that statement really is.
You see where Julius grew up the road he could have taken could have been very different because there was a big influence of drugs and crime. He had a cousin who was shot in the face and died. One day his friend, Keno came to him and told him that there were soccer trials for a national team that was for boys that were about two years older than what he was, but told him he still needed to go to check it out as well. His friends were the perfect age so he thought he would tag along with them to see what it was all about. When he arrived at the trials he realized that the trials were actually for boys his age and that his friends were too old. When he told me that his friend that took him to the trial is now dead it gave me chills. Imagine God placing something in front of you that could change your life forever and what if Julius did not take advantage of that opportunity where would he be??
His story is so inspiring. Anyone who talks to Julius falls immediately for outgoing personality and engaging smile. He is such a big softie except when he is on the field. On the field he is a fierce defender that most do not want to go up against. But don’t let that rough façade on the pitch aka soccer field fool you, inside Julius is thankful for everything that God has placed in his life.
Before and after each game, he prays for God’s protection during the game and thanks Him for the protection after the game. I personally have witnessed him doing this several times. Some games it is just a quick cross and a prayer other games like the one we attended for Maddie’s birthday, he knelt down before the game started and prayed. When I asked him about that he said that is just something that comes naturally to him and that he does not think about what he is doing he just does it.
Since then I have noticed several on the team that pray as well before and after the game. In fact when I asked him about that he said that the team is involved with a group called Athletes in Action (AIA) that meets once a week for Bible Study. I had known that there were programs like this for college and high school sports but did not know that they existed on the professional level. Hopefully I will be able to write a blog post about them in the future.
Julius grew up in a very rough community and he also grew up as the son of a preacher. I don’t know about you but where I grew up preacher’s kids were the ones who always seemed to get into the most trouble. But Julius did not have time for that as I mentioned before he was a swimmer before he found soccer and to this day he still swims. In fact he was challenged by his current teammates Brian Ackley and Nick Addlery to a swimming race. And when asked who won those races, Julian smiles brightly and says “Me, of course.” Once he found and fell in love with soccer he did not have the time to get into trouble. He was playing a lot and every chance that he would get he would be kicking the soccer ball against the wall of his parents’ house. He ended up having to paint the house several times because of all the black marks he would leave with the ball. I then asked him the question did he ever sleep with the ball and he said “No it was too dirty.” One of the biggest things that stood out to me during this part of the conversation was that he started to quote the Bible. Because as you know idle hands are the devil’s workshop.
Coming to the Carolina Railhawks, might not have been a route that he would have seen himself taking a few years ago but Julius admits that he likes it here. He loves the fans and are close to a few just like he was close to the fans at his former team in the MLS, The Columbus Crew. But there are some players that he gets along better with than others. For instance, Nick Addlery is from Jamaica and played in Trinidad and Tobago when Julius was on the national team so they had a little connection. In fact as Addlery puts it Julius orchestrates all the shenanigans and Addlery goes along for the ride. I then asked him a silly question just for fun if he was on a deserted island and could only have several of his teammates with him who would he chose and why. The answers really surprised me but here they are.
Nick Addlery– He would be the sole source of entertainment. Of course Julius was also quick to point out that he would also be mad at him because Julius chose to bring him on the island.
Tim Murray (Backup Goalie) – He is very resourceful.
Cesar Elizondo (remember this is Mikaela’s favorite) – Just in case he needed someone to speak Spanish
Brian Ackley– Because he knows a lot about a lot of things.
Austen King– he would help Julius hunt for food.
Luciano Delbano– because he could play guitar and Julius would make Nick Addlery sing for the entertainment.
I had to admit like I said before that the answers surprised me but I also got some great laughs from them. I then asked Julius as our conversation was winding down if anyone every teased him about being old. He said that in terms of experience he is old. But out on the soccer field every man is equal and it is all about what you can bring to the game that day. And what Julius brings is not only intensity and perservance but he also brings as Anthony J. D’Angelo wrote “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine. ” And that I believe is what Julius brings along with his playing expertise to the Carolina Railhawks. With his ever so quick smile and personality he has become a favorite in our hearts and on the field. He is definitely a bright spot for us at the game. So we all need to strive to be a little more like him and bring our own sunshine wherever we go. But let’s not forget that Julius did not do this on his own he had the complete and undying support of his parents and his family every single step of the way, spiritually, mentally and physically.
So I will leave you with these last thoughts.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And HE shall direct your paths. ” Proverbs 3:5-6
“Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding.” Proverbs 3:13
Those are the two verses that stand out to me when I think of Julius and all of that he has accomplished in his life those are great words to live by. What do you think?
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