Cuffee is one of several nominees for this year's Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award.
Below is a feature story provided by FanWord.com about Elijah Cuffee, who is one of several nominees for this year's Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award.
The Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award recognizes the Liberty University senior student-athlete who has maintained an exemplary testimony on the playing field, in the classroom and among the student body. Click here for more information about the Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award.
Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award web page: https://www.liberty.edu/flames/index.cfm?PID=37091
Family is everything to me.
It's the reason why I even pursued basketball in the first place. I can still remember those pick-up games with my dad and brother, Jason, like it was yesterday. I don't know, man. Everyone has their thing, and basketball was ours.
That's definitely the biggest takeaway from my time at Liberty: the family part.
When I walked through those doors four years ago, I was searching for a place to call home, not just a basketball court. I wanted to find that family both on and off the court.
And I got that at Liberty.
The relationships I made with everybody while I was there were just different and impactful in their own ways. All of them have allowed me to grow into the man I am today. They've seen me at my best, and they've seen me at my worst.
But through it all, including the loss of my brother, they've always stood by my side.
My family at Liberty has always had my back.
The Freshman Deal I walked through those doors four years ago, but Liberty has actually been a part of my family since I committed back when I was a freshman in high school.
It's pretty crazy when you put it into perspective.
I basically spent my entire high school career preparing for what life was going to be like at Liberty. Playing basketball at the collegiate level was always a goal of mine.
I believed I could achieve that goal someday, but I didn't think it was going to happen until it did. That's how it was for me growing up. You always talked about the possibility, but you don't really think it's actually a feasibility, you know?
And then, just like that, you're on top of the world.
There's a high that comes with signing to a school. I knew I'd get to play the sport I love, earn an education, and also have the opportunity to be on national television playing in March Madness—all of those things were suddenly a thing.
Just putting my name on the paper and finally committing to Liberty was a dream come true. I no longer had to talk about it because I was about to have an opportunity to live it.
A New Normal That decision to sign with Liberty all of those years ago ended up being one of the best ones of my life.
I've been blessed to accomplish some great things on court. For example, I became the first player in program history to win the ASUN Defensive Player of the Year and also finished my college career as the all-time winningest player with 104 career wins—definitely accomplishments I'm very proud of.
But at the end of the day, they're just basketball accolades. There's more to life than just numbers and statistics. I wouldn't have been able to achieve any of those things without the community and the people that surround me.
I certainly wouldn't have been able to do it without my teammates.
Just being at the school and a part of the basketball program has impacted me in so many ways. That place allowed me to grow in all aspects of my life. It wasn't just about putting a basketball through a hoop. I grew spiritually in my relationship with God, along with maturing mentally as a man.
Those are the lessons that hold you up when life hits you with the moments you can't prepare for.
It's been tough going through what I went through last summer with the loss of my brother, Jason. I can't even put into words how hard it was at first. It's so weird how you can get hit with something like that, and then you have to go about your life at some point like everything is normal.
But it's not normal. Nothing will ever be normal again.
My teammates were there to support me through everything. It went beyond them just showing up to the funeral. Endless texts, phone calls, and follow-ups when I needed them the most.
Without any doubt, my teammates are my family. Period.
Learning to Love Myself The people really are the best part about Liberty.
I honestly believe that's something that gets missed by those that don't really know much about the school. This is the sort of place where you could leave your laptop overnight, and it'll still be there when you come back in the morning.
It's really the small things people do for one another here that makes this place feel different, like holding doors open, saying hello, and smiling.
People at Liberty are just really, really nice.
I've tried to model after that behavior by being the best person I can be.
Just being around so many positive people has enabled me to grow in ways I wouldn't have believed possible.
I'm thankful to be a nominee of the Rock Royer/Mac Rivera Award. It's definitely an honor to be thought of for such an accolade that goes beyond just the sport of basketball. So even being recognized is a win in my eyes.
During my time at Liberty, I feel like I have learned to love myself for who I am and do so as God loved me. The university and men's basketball program will always be family, and I am forever grateful for my time here.
We cheered together, cried together, and climbed mountains together—through the good times and bad times.
I couldn't have asked for a better family.
I'm just thankful now I'll never have to.
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