New athletes share journey to JBU

Each year, John Brown University’s sports programs see plenty of fresh faces as freshman athletes come to school seeking to compete at a collegiate level. This year’s athletes have unique stories to tell.

Having to overcome injuries in order to achieve the goal of playing on an athletic scholarship at the collegiate level, volleyball player, Brittany Ayers, first heard about the University at the end of her senior year of high school in Lamar, Mo. She found it to be her best option.

Although she had other offers from different schools, Ayers said that coming to the University was, “a total God thing.”

“I got into searching for what I wanted academically in a school, which is a graduate counseling program…I found JBU online and it was a great school,” Ayers said.

She reached out to Coach Ken Carver and it happened that Carver had seen her play at previous club games.

“It was a huge eye opener that he had seen me play previously,” Ayers said.

Carver responded and set up a tryout for her. Then, during her second club tournament of her final season before college, Ayers tore her ACL and both menisci in her left knee. This was the Saturday night before the tryout.

“It was horrible and the JBU tryout was scheduled for the following Sunday,” Ayers said.

Even though the injury ended her club season and Carver only saw her play a few times, Ayers said it was by the grace of God she was able to recover.

“Usually that type of injury is a six month to a year recovery and rehab,” she said. “I was able to recover quickly and I came down, met the team and absolutely fell in love with JBU.”

Despite the statistics, Ayers was able to recover in five months.

“The outcomes of the tests and the therapists, acknowledged it was something they weren’t familiar with; I told them it was the complete glory to God that I got through it,” she said.

“The fact that Coach Carver had such faith in me, that I could really come back and play at 100 percent and play at the collegiate level was a total blessing.”

Other athletes have stories which bring them to the University from places far traveled.

Although soccer player, Tainara Oliveira’s, home is 5,121 miles from Arkansas in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, she found herself in Arkansas and loves it. She discovered the school because she attended school in Florida where her host family encouraged her to go to the University.

“Growing up I didn’t have a close relationship with God, but since I started living with my host family in Florida I felt closer to him,” Oliveira said. “My host family said if I wanted to keep building my relationship with God I should go to JBU and play for them!”

After visiting other colleges, Oliveira was  uncomfortable with her choices. Not until visiting the University did she felt at home.

“They changed my mind! The environment at JBU is what brought me here,” She said.

Oliveira faced a few odds in her journey to the University. She spent an extra year of school to learn English and received other offers that were revoked due to budget cuts. But now that she’s here, Oliveira said she is enjoying the calmer, slow-paced atmosphere of Arkansas and loves her team.

“The team is the best thing that happened in my life,” Oliveira said. “I love that they are not just about soccer; they make it a way to glorify the Lord and that’s what brought me here.”

While soccer player on the men’s team, Corey Ferguson, is also far away from home, his journey to the University was not as he expected. But as he said, “in the end it was all worth it.”

Like many athletes, Ferguson had offers from different schools, but felt unwelcome.

“It didn’t feel like I was home; settling in just felt like it would take forever,” Ferguson said about other colleges. “Just by clicking around [my dad and I] both stumbled upon JBU and I really liked what I saw by the statistics for the soccer team.”

Ferguson decided to send the Coach Scott Marksberry a video of him playing. As a result, he was given an offer to play that he gratefully accepted.

Even though Ferguson is far from home, he decided that going to the University was a good decision.

“There are way much more opportunities for me to further my education as well as play competitive soccer,” he said. “It was a tough decision to leave my family, but in the end I made them proud.”

Since coming to JBU, Ferguson has enjoyed playing with his teammates.

“I feel a strong bond with everyone on the team already, and I pretty much just met them,” he said. “We all motivate each other at training and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us this season.”

Otherwise, there is volleyball player, Bayli Reagan, who, though she lives in close-by Missouri, thought that she would end up anywhere else for college other than in the area.

“JBU came to my school and introduced what they were about, but I honestly had no interest in it,” Reagan said.

Reagan has played volleyball since sixth grade and intended to use her skills to pay for wherever she decided to attend school. She began searching for the college she wanted, and even had offers from D1 schools. A fellow teammate in high school showed interest in visiting the University, and convinced her to go.

“I thought a weekend with friends, to play ball, no big deal,” Reagan said. “After the first night on campus at JBU I knew I needed to be here.”

She said that wanting to attend snuck up on her, but she felt God calling her to be at the University. During that time, the University was in between coaches and she felt overwhelmed by the cost of tuition, but she saw how God provided for her costs.

“I called the athletic director, Robyn, and explained how much I needed to be at JBU,” Reagan said, “Robyn said that she saw video of me and would send my name to the new coach when they hired him.” She added, “I put off full-ride offers because I felt that I needed to be at JBU.”

The biggest thing Reagan appreciated when coming to the University campus was how welcomed she felt by the upperclassmen.

“I had been on visits to other colleges where the seniors snubbed us, but when I came here a senior stopped everything they were doing to get to know me,” she said.

Now that they are here, the student body has the opportunity to watch these athletes play.