Javon Scruggs – Our Transformation
Story provided by FanWord.com
(Feature Story for the Flames Illustrated football game day program on November 19, 2022)
Flames Illustrated Game Program (digital version)
By Javon Scruggs
As we continue to write history with the football program here at Liberty, I want to take a moment and share a little bit about our transformation since joining the FBS level in 2018.
Back then, my freshman year, I didn’t quite know what to make of it.
Liberty was one of the only schools to take a chance on me and I was just grateful to play college football. The level of play — I wasn’t too concerned about it.
But soon, it became obvious that if we wanted to be competitive at the FBS level, things needed to change.
It was an exciting opportunity to help shape the structure and future of this program.
A bit terrifying, too, maybe.
After all, we had no idea how we’d stack up against some of the Power 5 schools and other top football programs.
Today, many people still question if we actually belong at the FBS level, too.
But since I’m not one to give much to outside noise, I can only look at what we’ve accomplished since 2018.
And when I do, I can’t help but smile.
All About The Culture
In order for us to find success at the FBS level, we knew it had to start from within.
I can’t stress enough how important a strong culture is to building a successful football team.
Every team has talent, but not every team has the organizational culture that is required to win big, especially at the FBS level.
And about halfway through my freshman year in 2018, I realized we didn’t have it.
Don’t get me wrong, we were winning games, but we weren’t winning the games that were going to transform this program and put us on the map.
It was kind of like the Wild West if I’m being honest.
Guys were doing their own thing in the locker room and on the football field, and there wasn’t a whole lot of unity.
We needed to come together as a team.
Throughout the course of that season, I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t worried about us being at the FBS level.
We had the talent — we just couldn’t put the pieces together.
We needed someone to help instill the right mindset in us.
That someone turned out to be Coach Freeze.
When Coach Freeze was hired after the 2018 season, it was like a light switch.
Everything started trending in the right direction.
Not only was Coach Freeze able to recruit some high-level talent to come to Liberty, but he established that culture we were so desperately missing.
We trusted him, and he trusted us.
Add in the talent we already had, and the talent coming in, and I knew we were going to be alright.
We were ready for FBS football.
One of the biggest cultural changes since my freshman year is Coach Freeze’s “player-led team” approach.
He instilled in us that if we hold each other accountable and are a player-led team in practice, in the locker room, and on the field, we’d be on the right path.
As players, we can then focus on all the preparations that lead up to game day and make sure we’re all on the same page, looking to achieve the same unified goal.
Playing the game for each other, not individually.
We take that mindset and positive attitude into every game.
I truly believe it’s made all the difference in being able to beat Power 5 schools like Virginia Tech and Syracuse the last few years I’ve been at Liberty.
We also had an incredible win over a top-10 ranked Coastal Carolina team in the Cure Bowl in 2020.
I’ll never forget that one, either.
If I’m being completely honest, though, nothing is going to top going to Fayetteville and beating Arkansas this season.
We went toe to toe with an SEC school, and for the first time in program history, we left with a win over an SEC opponent.
I’m proud of every game I’ve been lucky enough to put on a Liberty uniform, but going down to Fayetteville and beating a team in the SEC is something I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.
What’s so special about our locker room, though, is we know we’ve got more work to do.
We’re not satisfied.
Coach Freeze always preaches to us about moving forward. Not looking too far ahead, but not looking behind either.
I know there are people out there trying to downplay our accomplishments.
It’s not something I’m worried about.
It’s not something our team is worried about.
We’re going to control what we can control.
Keep the Flames Going
This is my final season here in Lynchburg, and truthfully, I’m always so focused on the next game, I haven’t taken too much time to reflect on my career here at Liberty yet.
As I sit here now, being a hometown kid, a starter, and a leader on this team, I’m incredibly proud of the impact I’ve been able to have.
It’s not only the impact I’ve had on the football team, but the community as well.
Like I said before, I didn’t plan it this way, but I was in the first class that saw the Liberty football program move up to the FBS level.
That’s something I take tremendous pride in.
I was there during the rocky first season in 2018. I’ve also been there for wins against Power 5 programs, bowl game victories, and beating Arkansas to become the highest-ranked team in program history in the regular season at #19 in the AP Poll.
When I leave Liberty, that’s what I want my legacy to be.
I want to be known as a guy that worked hard, didn’t take any shortcuts, and was part of a core that helped change the culture and future of this program.
All it takes is a spark to start a fire.
If I’ve provided any kind of spark the last few years to elevate this program where it is today, that means more to me than any wins, bowl games, and rankings ever could.
And trust me, these flames aren’t getting put out anytime soon.