SPRINGFIELD — Julian Thrift traveled a rocky road to get to his desired destination.
The Effingham County wide receiver overcame sizable injury bumps to earn an opportunity to attend LaGrange College this fall. The biggest one — a dislocated hip — occurred in the third game of the 2018 season at Beaufort, S.C.
“When it happened, I was scared because it was the second leg injury I’d ever had,” Thrift said after signing with the Panthers on Feb. 20. “I didn’t know what the future held for me after that injury but I knew I wasn’t going to stop myself. I was definitely going to keep pushing no matter what the doctor told me or anybody else.
“Nobody was going to stop me from playing football.”
Thrift returned to the Rebels’ sideline on crutches the following week for a game against South Effingham.
“The doctor told me I shouldn’t go but I had to support my team,” Thrift said.
Before the season was over, Thrift was back on the field blocking and catching passes for the Rebels, who advanced to the second round of the state playoffs for the first time since 1987.
Effingham County head football coach Buddy Holder credited Thrift for team-first attitude.
“Anything you ask him to do, he will do it,” Holder said.
Of course, Thrift’s perseverance didn’t go unnoticed by his coach.
“He’s also shown a lot of tenacity and resilience to come back from the injuries he had,” Holder said. “He fought back from them and I am so proud of him.”
At 6-feet. 170-pounds, Thrift, hurt recently in a car wreck, will offer LaGrange College some versatility. In addition to making miraculous catches — he had one for a touchdown against Groves in the second game last year — he is a good blocker.
“I think (blocking) is what sold them,” Thrift said, “and whenever we did throw the ball, I did everything I could to go get it.”
Thrift also let the Panthers’ know that he is eager to hold on placekicks. He handled that job with aplomb for the Rebels.
“I will do whatever I can to help that team,” he said.
Thrift intends to pursue a degree in sports management. He will minor in coaching.
“He did a lot a lot for the football program here at Effingham County and has been a great student in the hallways — always staying out of trouble and doing the right thing,” said Matt Huntley, the Rebels’ athletic director.