NOTE: This article was submitted by the Grady Sports Bureau, part of the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

It’s been two years since Joseph Daniels, Joseph Sayles and Bryce Cross have all been back in Johns Creek during the month of April. The coronavirus pandemic has forced these three former Chattahoochee High School football players to return to living within a ten minute drive of each other. 

Daniels, who is currently a sophomore at Indiana University, is trying to make the most of his time away from Bloomington. 

“I feel like this is a way to elevate above the competition,” he said.  “Now is a time I can outwork my people and get ahead.”

From 2014-2017, these three athletes competed on the same team, playing mostly on the defensive side of the ball. They were able to form a bond with the time spent together working on their positions and preparing for their opponents. While high school brought them together, they all created different paths for themselves by going their separate ways at the collegiate level. 

Sayles is trying to keep a realistic and positive attitude when discussing his mindset as he prepares for his third season at Eastern Kentucky University. 

“I’m not worried,” he said. “I believe everything happens for a reason, so we’ll see.”

Due to an early decision to redshirt, Cross will have two seasons of eligibility left at Western Illinois University. The toughest transition for him since the start of the pandemic has been training on his own as well as the lack of gym access. He has had to make many adjustments to his training to ensure he continues to stay on track for the season.

While this situation has caused all three athletes to be away from their coaches and teammates, they have responded by staying in contact with each other. They hope to eventually be able to get together to train and push each other to be better. 

While being away from campus, equipment, and teammates makes it more difficult to train, there is another obstacle these three athletes are facing during this pandemic. There is still no guarantee of a Fall 2020 season for any college athletes. Despite these concerns, Cross remains confident that his career as a Western Illinois Leatherneck is not over. 

“It is paused temporarily for an unknown amount of time,” he said.

Sayles says he has had a smooth change from campus to online courses this semester. His approach and goals for the upcoming season remain the same. He maintains there’s nothing to be afraid of until a concrete decision is made and still aims to lead the nation in interceptions.

While all three athletes admit that it can be difficult during these times to feel as though the workouts they are doing are as effective as they normally would be, this hasn’t changed their mindset.

“All I can control is my contribution to the team, continue to better myself, and lead by example,” Cross said. “So when we do come back together as a team, we can take steps forward instead of back.”

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