DALLAS — The countdown has begun for JeR’yl Christian to witness the chance of lifetime.
“It’s really a big dream to me because I’ve been playing (football) since the age of five,” Christian, a former Kentucky Christian University defensive lineman, said during a recent interview. “I love the passion of the game and can’t anyone hold me back. I’ve work hard each and every day. I’ve dreamed about this day.”
The day Christian is alluding to is an organized Canadian Football League tryout at California University of Pennsylvania. Located on 294 acres in the rural establishment of California, Pennsylvania, the school known as “Cal U” is just 35 miles south of Pittsburgh on the banks of the Monongahela River.
After auditioning in the coming days at Cal U, Christian is scheduled to try out for the CFL’s British Columbia Lions in Seattle on May 17.
For the 24-year-old Christian, a native of Steubenville, Ohio, that he will be afforded the golden opportunity of putting his football skills on display before pro scouts is something he said he will relish for the rest of his life.
According to many who have observed his maturation process on the field, particularly during his collegiate stint, they believe the 6-foot-2, 265-pound defensive lineman is worthy of a shot of playing at the professional level, even the NFL.
“There is no doubt to me the JeR’yl should get a shot at becoming an NFL player,” said Christian’s longtime mentor Michael McIntyre. “The positive attributes that JeR’yl possesses are what is needed in professional football. His character is one of his strengths that are equaled by his perseverance, talent, and dependability.”
After a stellar high school career in which he had drawn interests from a host of Division 1 colleges, Christian ultimately decided to take his football talents to Akron University. However, following a red shirt year and the subsequent firing of Akron’s coaching staff, Christian transferred to Kentucky Christian, where he enjoyed three efficient seasons for the NAIA member Knights.
To his credit, Christian helped propelled the Knights to a 5-6 mark this past season, a two-game improvement from the previous year.
Arguably his most productive season at KCU was his junior campaign, which was a coming out party, of sorts, for Christian. That’s because he emerged as a catalyst of the Knights’ defensive unit, having recorded a team-best 57 tackles, including 13 ½ of which was for lost yardage.
Add to the fact that this rugged defensive lineman — who garnered preseason All-American honors — recorded 5 ½ sacks and had three forced fumbles, and it’s no wonder the possibility exists that many believe his best playing days are ahead of him.
As he prepares for what undoubtedly is the biggest opportunity of his young life, Christian credits a majority of success to his late grandmother, Barbara June Gardner, who looked after him since birth.
Gardner, who was legally blind, died of a heart attack last year on March 18.
“It really broke my heart,” Christian said of his grandmother’s death. “But I know she’s here with me throughout everything. I just want a chance to prove that I can play at any level.”
His golden opportunity will take place in the coming days which, according to him, is a chance of a lifetime that is.
Let the countdown begin.
Andre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.