Eagles strive to inspire sports fans
There are certain athletes that can inspire a nation, such as Rulon Gardner did in the Olympics. There are athletes who have inspired leagues, like Michael Jordan in the NBA. However, for some reason, it's rare that a student-athlete ever single-handedly inspires a university. However, at AU, sophomore mid-fielder Freddy Llerena of the Men's Soccer team has provided the Eagles (and the entire campus, for that matter) with a reason to pay attention.
Last March, Llerena's leg was torn up when D.C. United striker Hristo Stoitchkov committed a violent foul, tearing the ligaments in Llerena's knee. After six months of intense rehabilitation and work, Llerena recently stepped back onto the field to join his Eagles teammates. Most players would have taken more than a year to complete rehab. Llerena completed it in half the time.
Eagles Head Coach Todd West told the Soccer Times that it was the "worst foul [he'd] seen in 33 years."
Llerena treated the situation with class, choosing to focus on the future instead of harping on the past.
Now, with Llerena back, the Eagles' midfield gets a tremendous boost with the sophomore speeding and manning the middle of the field as they continue their quest for a Patriot League title.
Llerena's comeback represents what college athletics is all about: Student-athletes making a difference in campus life. Not every college athlete would work as diligently and thoroughly to come back as quickly as Llerena did.
Here at AU, a sophomore mid-fielder working so tirelessly is exactly what the Eagles need to stimulate a lack of fan support that has become an increasing problem recently.
With the recent collapse of the Screaming Eagles, AU's spirit organization, some of the most diligent Eagles fans have been eliminated.
Disgust over the Screaming Eagles' demise has grown so much that many of the former Screamers have said that they will no longer attend games because the club they belonged to fell by the wayside.
Over the past year, I've watched athletes such as Llerena put their hearts on the line day in and day out; however, AU students and the D.C. community haven't responded. Reeves Field and Bender Arena are rarely filled with spectators.
However, instead of attempting to stimulate fan support, moves like the disbanding of the Screaming Eagles are not steps in the right direction. AU should be showcasing its talent, with players such as Llerena, field hockey star Laura Miller and basketball talents Jernavis Draughn and Chanel Hunt, among other players.
Instead, individual athletes are rarely mentioned during advertising. In addition, themed events such as "Phil Bender" should occur more frequently than once or twice a year.
Students respond to T-shirts, pizza and X-Box. While it may be slightly idealistic to ask for these events to take place weekly, D.C. businesses would surely sponsor their own themed days - for example, an Armand's Pizzeria day - especially if they saw the heart and class which AU athletes possess, led by Llerena.
Llerena may not score 10 goals this year and his team may not win the Patriot League Tournament, but just the fact that No. 8 will be sprinting around Reeves Field this fall should foster hope and excitement in AU fans.
Sadly, though, AU diehards may be the only ones to witness Llerena's remarkable comeback. It's not often somebody does what Llerena did. It's even less often that no one witnesses it.