Athletic success can be hard to define, and it’s even more difficult to pinpoint where and how it begins. When do athletes know they are better than their teammates, perhaps talented enough to compete for a Division I program? Is it a standout game? An all-star practice? Or a solo move while standing in the backyard, practicing without an audience? We asked several Cavaliers to recall that moment in time when they knew they were good enough to play their respective sports for UVA. Here’s what they had to say.
Kevin Parks (Col ’14)
Running Back • Football
I’d have to say when I was in seventh grade and it was the first time I was ever running the ball. In fifth and sixth grade, there was a weight limit on players who played offense, so I played defense and couldn’t run offense. But in seventh grade, on the first play of the game, I’m lined up at kick return. I picked up the ball and scored on the first play, first touch of my first middle school game. Right then and there, I said, “I think I can play football.”
Anthony Harris (Col ’15)
Strong Safety • Football
I was always pretty successful at football, but it wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school that I realized I was really good, because that’s when colleges started taking notice and recruiting me. There was no particular game, just my experiences. Also, probably the first game of the season, when we played BYU, I made so many plays it just felt unreal, like I was dreaming a little bit. That was one of those games that it hit me again like, ”wow.” I blocked a punt, which I had never done before at all playing football, then I got a sack on the QB and I got an interception that led to a scoring drive, so that was major. That same week, Lou Holtz awarded me his Weekly Helmet Sticker on [ESPN’s] College Football Live. I got a compliment from a football legend.
Justin Anderson (Col ’16)
Guard • Basketball
My brother played basketball for the University of Mary Washington and my dad and sister and brother all played basketball as well. During halftime of one of my brother’s college games, my dad and I went to a nearby gym. I was in fifth grade and I felt like I could dunk it. So I tried and I did it—that was the first day I dunked on a regulation hoop. That’s when I thought, “I can do this.” My dad never shows much emotion, but he was so excited when I dunked. It was one of those moments.
Courtney Bartholomew (Col ’16)
Backstroke/individual medley • Swimming
It was probably my sophomore year of high school; I dropped a ton of time and I just really hit a stride. I started thinking at that point that I could get a scholarship and swim at the collegiate level. I have no idea why it happened. I’ve always loved swimming and you have up and down periods, especially for girls; you peak at different times than boys. It clicked for me then.
Ataira Franklin (Col ’14)
Guard • Basketball
I didn’t take basketball seriously until I was probably on an 11-and-under AAU team. We were one of those overnight successes, where we came out of nowhere and just crushed everybody. We placed fifth in nationals that year. A year later, when I was 11, we played in the regionals, and that was the first year we won, I had a game-winning shot, my first game winner. And that was coming off the year before when I hadn’t taken it very seriously—that game-winning shot moment was when it clicked.
Mike Papi (Col ’15)
First Base • Baseball
I always seemed to play up with the older kids. When I was nine, 10 years old, I noticed that I had some potential and ability—my coaches told me that I needed to play at a higher level. So when I was in fifth grade, I played on the sixth grade team. My freshman year of high school, I started on the varsity team. That’s when I realized I had some abilities. I started that whole season. Throughout my high school career, the team became more and more successful—we went to the state championship game my senior year of high school.
Casey Bocklet (Col ’15)
Attack • Lacrosse
I knew that I wanted to play lacrosse in high school and when I was younger because my older brothers played and I loved watching them. They always encouraged me and I did well in middle and high school, so I knew I was good, but it was hard to tell where I was, because I wasn’t from a lacrosse hotbed. Whenever I tried to play on those select teams, I was really timid and I didn’t play to my full potential. But the moment when I realized I could play at this level and got the confidence in myself was last year against Maryland. It was the beginning of the season, a game we lost, but I was three for four. I felt really good about that because last year Maryland was undefeated until they lost in the championship. So it was a huge confidence booster knowing I did so well against them, especially since they have one of the top defenses in the nation. The Maryland game for me was like, “Okay I can play at this level and do good things for my team.”