To James Pauli (12), football is so much more than a game or even a sport. Not only is it a family tradition, but it also offers him the opportunity to define himself.
“I came to this school not knowing if there was going to be a football program, but after playing football for this school for four years, we’ve really been able to make a name for ourselves,” he said. “We’ve really opened eyes for college scouts, [and] we’ve really opened doors for a lot of other athletes.”
From putting in extra workouts to seeing teachers during extra help, James has managed to balance schoolwork with difficult practice and workout schedules, largely thanks to his parents’ efforts.
“On the athletic side, my dad [influenced me], and on the academic side, it’s my mom, but I really appreciate both of them just because of the work they’ve been putting in,” he said. “For us to manage in our own little way, it shows me the strength they have.”
In fact, James’ faith in his family has become a guiding factor in his journey through high school.
“I come from a low income family, and a lot of times, we’ll be living with different family members, and we won’t really be financially stable,” he said. “I think having faith in my parents, who are raising eight kids in such a hard place to grow up, has really kept me going.”
The value that James puts in the importance of family has also shaped his friendships at school, according to Floyd Gordon (12), his friend since middle school.
“My first impression of [James] has stayed the same in that he’s a quiet guy and likes to stick to himself unless he’s comfortable around you,” Floyd said. “He cares about his family and friends a lot. Family is the most important thing to him, and I believe that he sees [our friend group] as family. He always has our back in the same way that we have his.”
In addition to supporting his athletic and academic aspirations in high school, James’ family also inspires him to strive for greater heights in college and beyond.
“I value my whole family. Cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, we all haven’t been financially stable,” he said. “Thinking of my family keeps me going. They make me want to be a better person. They give me the motivation to be successful.”
Going into college, James keeps with him the lessons of faith and perseverance that he learned from his family and his own experiences.
“Although things may not look good now, if you have faith, keep moving forward, and keep your head high, things will end up pretty good,” he said. “I’ve actually been through it, I started at the beginning, and seeing where I’m at now really proves that things will work out.”