We sometimes fall into the trap of putting our favorite athletes on a pedestal. Assuming that because they’re superhuman on the playing surface that somehow they transcend the real world.
Part of this is because they seem so far away from our personal lives, and have to hold their lives closer to the vest, because the masses tend to dissect anything they don’t like.
It’s all wrong, though. Athletes are regular people. With feelings, families, hopes and dreams. And sometimes, you come across one who is open to sharing those with you.
Enter Christian Saulsberry.
I don’t blame you if you haven’t heard of him, yet. The mass sports media likes to over-hype Power-5 schools and the athletes that come out of them. Leaving many with the idea that if a player didn’t go to an SEC school, he’s not very good.
You would be wrong. In fact, I suggest you look up the man’s film. Many who have seen him play, me included, throw out comparisons to Bears RB Tarik Cohen, or Washington’s Antonio Gibson.
He’s a speedy, shifty runner, with the ability to line up outside, and ALWAYS a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball.
This is what we know about the player. But what caught my attention the most was what I learned about the man, and the support behind him.
Christian and his mom Melissa Saulsberry-Smith (known as @supermomof3cs on Twitter) joined the January 28th episode of the Fan-Controlled Football weekly show on Twitch, and it made me rethink my attitude towards parents having a front seat in their kid’s athletics.
Far too often we see the parents take that role and make everything about them, instead of the athlete. Of course, I love the support, but it’s not about the parent.
Mom gets it. So much so that I had to reach out and sit down with them to learn more. Thankfully, they were remarkably accepting of me.
She is his rock, and they both are very open about that. From an early age, whatever Christian wanted to do with his life, she was going to do everything to give him that opportunity.
At age 7, Christian chose football. When he says that, he means it. We talked about his commitment to the game from the very beginning:
“When he was little, he would watch players at his position, and then he would go to scout games of other teams in his age group, and during breaks, he would practice what he saw on YouTube.”Melissa Saulsberry-Smith
He’s stated in recent interviews how important film is. A true student of the game, his focus would soon pay off for him.
Christian started at the public school Southaven High (MS). But to prepare for college, Christian transferred to a private prep school, Northpoint Christian (MS).
Immediately he changed the face of the football program there. They made it to the state championships, with a 13-0 record, but fell short of taking home the trophy.
One particular night stands out to them, but I’ll let his mom set the scene:
“At the beginning of his senior year, he took the ACT and expected the scores on the Friday of a huge district game. I had been praying for good results because I knew it would play a major role in his performance that night. We got the results around lunchtime.”Melisa Saulsberry Smith
Saulsberry finished the night with 142 rushing yards and 2 TDs, 52 receiving yards, and a 35-yard touchdown pass. Defensively he added 2 INTs in the second half. Not to mention key tackles to end any hopes of the other team coming back.
Although he excelled on the gridiron and in the classroom, Saulsberry chose to start his journey at Itawamba (Miss.) Community College, to further prepare himself for the competition he would face in the future.
After graduating with Honors, Christian transferred to West Alabama, where he was 2-time All-Conference, and led his team as a senior with 1,223 All-Purpose yards.
But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Not a lot different from most of us, 2020 hasn’t been great for them. When asked what makes the upcoming Fan-Controlled Football season exciting, his mom had this to say:
“For me, it exciting to watch. This past year has been hard. When Christian met with the scouts, they told him, ‘run a 4.3 and you’re good’. And when draft day comes and nothing happens, it’s gut-wrenching.”Melissa Saulsberry-Smith
This season is a major blessing. Regardless of what naysayers think, there is a lot of legitimacy to this league. The highly-regarded coaches make them work too:
“We catch 70 balls a day before we even start practice.”…We had 2’o’days for a while, so, but I’m used to it. It’s great to be back out there on the field. I played football in the fall, and baseball in the spring growing up, so I’m used always having something.”Christian Saulsberry
When asked if they had a message to send out to everyone, Christian said to have fun with the league and the players. the FCF is giving fans unprecedented access, so if you think your favorite players are untouchable, they’re here to turn that belief on its head.
Mom’s message is to the parents out there. Feed your kid’s dreams, be there for it, and help them in every way possible.
“I feel like we lose so many great players because there isn’t as much support from the parents.”Melissa Saulsberry-Smith
That’s not the case here. And we’re not finished yet, we’ll have them back in a couple of weeks to hear more from this super duo.
I can’t wait.
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