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Flames Feature: Family, Friends, Fishing, Farming and Football - The Five F's of Stevie Ray Lloyd
Country-boy strength is one of many adages bestowed upon young men who grew up on a farm, having spent formative childhood years doing heavy lifting and working to help the family business. For the venerated-local Jefferson Forest High School product and current Liberty starting linebacker Stevie Ray Lloyd, the handle fits perfectly.
Lloyd, a redshirt senior from Lynchburg, grew up working with his older sister and younger brother on their parents' cattle farm. Over the years, Lloyd developed great strength, wrestling and tagging calves and doing grunt work on the farm, as well as helping with his dad's concrete business.
"My dad made me do all the bull work," said Lloyd. "He had me carrying concrete shoots as a kid. I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for him. He pushed me so hard and helped develop me as a person."
Lloyd, a tremendous defensive player for the Flames, got his start on the gridiron at the tender age of five in the Timberlake Lions Recreation League. The prodigious youngster was one of the fastest and most athletic kids in the league.
A couple bonds, developed in that recreation league, are still watertight today. Flames' redshirt senior Eddie Pinigis and junior Rashad Jennings each played with Lloyd in the league and later at Jefferson Forest. Pinigis and Lloyd share a unique tie, as both were captains at Jefferson Forest as seniors in 2002. Lloyd went to Virginia Tech and Pinigis to ACC rival Virginia. Each stayed at their respective schools for three years, redshirting one, before reuniting in 2006 at Liberty. Much like five years ago in high school, both Lloyd and Pinigis are captains, this time at Liberty.
"It is awesome to have best friends from rec league and through high school to go our separate ways and then return together at a new place to finish it together," commented Lloyd.
But it was while at Virginia Tech that Lloyd suffered what he cited as his most embarrassing on-field experience in what happened to be his first collegiate game. The Hokies were taking on top-ranked USC at FedEx Field in Washington D.C., in the 2004 BCA Football Classic. Lloyd, a redshirt freshman, was playing special teams when the incident happened. Virginia Tech was kicking off to USC and Lloyd had the chance to put a big hit on the Trojans' Reggie Bush. Lloyd made the big-time hit and in front of 91,665 fans, he started jumping up and down in celebration, only to get tangled over his feet and face plant on the turf.
"I was so excited, the fans were going crazy and then I fell. I've never felt so embarrassed," recollected Lloyd.
Lloyd remained at Virginia Tech for another season before making his way home to Lynchburg to join the Flames. Despite leaving, Lloyd left a piece of his heart in Blacksburg with his girlfriend, Jessica Everheart, who is a member of the Hokie softball team. When tragedy struck the campus on April 16, Everheart was in lockdown in the building next to the massacre and in complete ear shot of the gunfire. The couple kept in contact throughout the ordeal via their cell phones. "That event was so terrible," said Lloyd. "I pray every day for the victims and their families."
As a community, a state and a nation heal from such an affliction, many look to a game, such as football, for therapy. Entering the 2007 season, Flame fans will reflect back on last year as a "Season to Remember" and a look toward future greatness.
"We had a good season, but we can always do better," stated Lloyd in reference to the best turnaround in the nation.
"Better" is what Liberty aims to do with the help of Lloyd in 2007. "I am so grateful that I am healthy and can play my senior year, while being honored as a captain," said Lloyd. "We are going to go out and prove ourselves, by going from Good2Great and aiming for that national championship."
Lloyd, a Big South second-team all-conference honoree in 2006, led the team with 80 tackles, prompting him to be named to the 2007 Big South preseason all-conference team.
"Stevie is in the best shape of his life," said head coach Danny Rocco. "He is bigger, stronger and faster. He is the heart and soul of our defense. He obviously has the respect of his teammates and peers, since they voted him as a defensive captain."
The 2007 season will be a bittersweet one for Lloyd. With the passing of Liberty founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, Lloyd feels the loss of the Flames' No. 1 fan. "Growing up in Lynchburg, I have known Dr. Falwell for some time because of everything he did for the community," said Lloyd. "We lost our No. 1 fan and I dedicate my season to his memory."
Lloyd's personal No. 1 fan is a tie amongst his family members. The Lloyd clan has not missed many of Stevie's games during his collegiate football career. Lloyd's father, Steve Sr., is famous on Liberty Mountain come game day. Just look for the white tent in the P-1 parking lot and you're bound to find Steve, Sr., orchestrating a massive tailgating extravaganza. "He just bought a pull-behind grill for the season, which will be able to cook 50-100 hamburgers," chuckled Lloyd.
Hamburgers are not the only thing a man who owns cattle serves. Anything from ribs to Lloyd's favorite, fillets, is available at the elder Lloyd's tailgate. "My dad gets to the stadium at six in the morning sometimes and tailgates all day," commented Lloyd. As early as Lloyd Sr., gets to Liberty Mountain, one is sure to find him starting out the day with a Lynchburg classic, the cheezie western, a cheeseburger with relish and a fried egg on top.
Lloyd's dad isn't the only fan in the family. Kathy Lloyd, Stevie's mother, also makes all the games, as do both siblings. In fact, Lloyd's sister has chosen Liberty football over joining her husband, who has season tickets for Virginia.
Family is most important to Lloyd. But when the stalwart linebacker needs to get away, there is no place he would rather go than fishing for bass at his secret lake. Lloyd, the youngest National Fishing Champion at the age of eight, has his secret spot, which he calls the "secret Bedford Lake." Lloyd took head strength and conditioning coach Bill Gillespie there this past summer where the world-renowned weightlifter caught a 10-pound bass.
"Stevie told me he had this spot, and I had heard these stories before so I was a little leery," said Gillespie. "He then took me out fishing in the middle of the day, past the time the fishing is supposed to be good. We decided to take a picture of anything over five pounds. In three hours, we took 13 pictures and I had never in my life caught a five-pound bass before that day. So now I have my Virginia fishing spot."
Lloyd is every bit the country boy, having grown up on a farm roping cattle, carrying concrete for his dad's other business and playing football. Lloyd's short-term future is leading his team in its quest for the Big South Championship and a berth in the FCS playoffs. His long-term goals include professional football.
In the end, the consummate gentleman will return to his roots, wrestling cattle, working concrete, running his own business and every now and then playing a little hooky to go fishing at a little lake, nestled somewhere in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, that remains a secret to most.
Written by Vincent Briedis
Liberty University Assistant Athletics Media Relations Director