Ivory’s Amazing Journey
Many of you have probably heard bits and pieces of Saints running back Chris Ivory’s journey to the NFL. Les Carpenter of Yahoo Sports provides an incredible piece into Ivory’s past, and his unrelenting spirit. Many might have quit along the way, but it was as if Ivory was undeterred.
The player who is the best story in the NFL this year – bursting from nowhere to the New Orleans Saints – moves with a fury that borders on desperation. His legs whirl. His arms whip. His head bounces. There is nothing easy or graceful in the way he goes. Every step comes violent and hungry as if stopping means he will lose everything that’s happened almost as fast as it came.
Who could have seen this? He, Chris Ivory, in the NFL, let alone leading the Saints, the defending Super Bowl champions, with 683 rushing yards – almost as many as he had in four years at Washington State and Tiffin (Ohio) University? Things like this don’t normally happen. Ivory understands. What was that his high school coach back in Longview, Texas used to say?
“If you aren’t running as hard as you can, they will get you.”
Ivory smiles as he sits at his locker at the Saints’ practice facility late last week. He is a running back in a linebacker’s body, weighing 222 pounds.
“But there’s more to it,” he says.
Then he goes quiet.
Yes there is more, which is why he has been running ever since those days in the dusty East Texas fields where they kept telling Chris the best way out was to play football and the only way to be great at that was to run. He’s been running since that day he and his best childhood friend Trent Williams(notes), now a left tackle for the Washington Redskins, made a pact that they would both someday play in the NFL and then set about to make a ridiculous dream come true.
He’s been running since Longview High, where a flashier running back who ran smooth and true named Vondrell McGee got to be tailback, drawing all the attention from recruiters who barely noticed Ivory racing through defenses as a fullback. He’s been running since Washington State, where the injuries came, where they charged him with a felony crime his friends say he never committed, where he eventually was thrown off the team, driving him to Tiffin where the injuries came again and the NFL didn’t care.
And now he is here? With the Saints?
Ivory laughs. It is a quiet laugh, his face stays hidden behind a curtain of dreadlocks.
“You know, sometimes when I’m at home and maybe I hear some music or I smell a certain smell it will get me thinking of what I went through,” he says. “It will remind me this is a blessing.”
“Stay dedicated, man,” he says. “Stay dedicated and prayed up.”
Ask Ivory’s cousin Ricardo Buchanan what has kept Ivory running despite a mountain of roadblocks that screamed he should stop and he says “Aunt Judy.”
Few kids in Longview didn’t know Judy Ivory-Gilliland. She was a police officer in Longview, first working a beat on the streets until eventually landing the job as the officer assigned to the local schools.
“She is the rock of our family,” Buchanan says.
Even more, she was the rock of other families too, picking out the kids at school who needed the most guidance, talking to them, mentoring them, urging them to get degrees.
“A lot of them didn’t come out of homes with much love,” says another cousin, Quincy Grant. “And when someone comes from the outside and shows them that love, it meant a lot to those kids. It motivated them to get better. A lot of kids graduated who wouldn’t have because of her.”
It was Judy who pushed her only child Chris, telling him he could be great, that all he had to do was keep working and working and that good things would happen. She was the one who sat at the edge of the fields during youth league games, hitting a button in her police cruiser every time Chris scored, filling the East Texas sky with the wail of a siren until it seemed the sound never stopped.
And when he needed to be told to keep running even when nothing seemed to go right, she was the one who told him he had to do it.
Read the entire story here:http://sports.yahoo.com/nfl/news?slug=lc-ivorysaints121610
I highly recommend reading Carpenter’s story in it’s entirety. Ivory will always be injury prone, that’s the nature of his position coupled with his style of running. However, after reading about his journey, there is no doubt he’ll always fight to come back from injury. For that matter, Chris will fight to come back from anything else life might throw at him.