Athletics

Rise With Us

June 8, 2018

Flames Football Prepares for its big move

“Either you rise with us or you can watch us rise.”

That’s the mindset of junior running back Frankie Hickson as he and his teammates prepare to head into uncharted waters this fall.

What started as a dream by visionary Liberty University founder Dr. Jerry Falwell in 1971 will soon become a reality when Liberty’s football program rises to the top level of collegiate football in its first season in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

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Falwell often spoke of having a football program “comparable to USC or Alabama.” On Feb. 17, 2017, a waiver granted by the NCAA allowed Liberty’s 45-year-old football program to take the final step toward reaching that goal.

This coming season, Liberty enters the second year of its two-year FBS transition process, competing as an FBS independent program for the first time. The team will not be eligible for postseason competition, but in 2019, Liberty will become a full-fledged FBS program and have the opportunity to compete for bowl game appearances.

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The Flames will host their first FBS home game against in-state foe Old Dominion University on Sept. 1 — the first of four FBS teams to visit Williams Stadium in the 2018 season to meet the FBS reclassification criteria. The 2018 home schedule also features FBS matchups against North Texas (Sept. 22), Troy (Oct. 13), and New Mexico State (Nov. 24).

Leading the Flames into this new era will be seventh-year Head Coach Turner Gill. During his time on Liberty Mountain, Gill has guided the Flames to four FCS conference titles while tallying three of the program’s five wins over FBS teams.

Gill helped Liberty kick off its two-year FBS transition process in grand style with a 48-45 win over Baylor University on Sept. 2, 2017. The stunning victory was ranked as the seventh biggest upset in college football over the last 25 years (ESPN.com, Sept. 6, 2017).

Gill’s offensive arsenal will be ready for the challenge of its first-ever FBS schedule with the high-powered tandem of quarterback Stephen “Buckshot” Calvert and wide receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden.

Calvert is on pace to erase all of Liberty’s quarterback records. He finished 2017 with a school-record 3,363 passing yards and 29 touchdowns.

Gandy-Golden was his top target. He became the seventh player in program history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a season (1,066 yards and 10 touchdowns).

Calvert, Gandy-Golden, Hickson, and a host of upperclassmen will be joined by the highest-rated football recruiting class in program history. The news of Liberty’s move to the FBS level allowed Gill to land 15 players in LU’s first-ever FBS recruiting class who are two- or three-star recruits, as ranked by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com.

A stout combination of veteran players along with numerous game-changing recruits are asking Flames Nation to come “Rise With Us” as the program presses toward the goal set nearly a half-century ago.


FLAMES CLUB

Fans can support Liberty Football and enjoy special game-day privileges by joining the Flames Club, which underwrites Liberty Athletics’ threefold mission to Train Champions for Christ, provide a world-class student-athlete experience, and achieve victory with integrity. Membership starts at just $60. Preferred parking and seating and hospitality benefits are based upon membership level. Call 434-582-CLUB (2582), email FlamesClub@liberty.edu, or visit LibertyFlames.com/FlamesClub.

(Photo by Kevin Manguiob)

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