‘Bear’ing weight on offense: Senior lineman to play at Baylor University

High school athletes await the day where the college of their dream signs them to play the sports they’ve spent years of their life working to perfect their best abilities, while playing games almost every Friday night against teams that might be bigger and stronger, and keeping that drive and school spirit in mind with every yard line crossed. Senior Ylijaah Hall is experiencing that after Baylor University signed him to play football next season.

“It really meant a lot to me that Baylor was the first school to offer me a scholarship to play football,” Ylijaah said. “It’s been one of my favorite schools since I was a little kid, so the opportunity to play for them really excites me.”

Ylijaah appreciates the opportunity from Baylor and acknowledges that chances like this are hard to come by.

“I think playing in college will make for a faster game,” Ylijaah said. “I feel like it’ll be a great experience since I’ll be there for the next four years. Overall, I think it’ll be a good learning opportunity.”

Varsity football coach Chris Johnson started coaching at Bryan High this year after graduating in December of 2013 to play football for Baylor.

“I decided to come back to BHS because Bryan is my hometown,” Johnson said. “I played for Coach Rogers my senior year, and I always knew that I wanted to become a coach someday because I love sports and impacting the lives of young people. Having the opportunity to begin my coaching career in my hometown was just icing on the cake.”

Johnson has walked the same path Ylijaah finds himself on now, creating a unique opportunity for Ylijaah to receive guidance.

“I look to Coach Johnson for advice,” Ylijaah said. “I asked him about graduating early, and he said that if my heart was set on Baylor that I should do it.”

Because of his positive attitude toward the sport and his drive to play, Ylijaah stands out among other teammates on the field.

“I think the main thing that Ylijaah has that will make him successful is his work ethic.” Johnson said. “He is constantly looking for ways to get better as a player instead of being satisfied with where he currently is athletically.”

Through challenges he has experienced both on and off the field, Ylijaah has learned valuable things about himself that he will carry with him for the rest of his life.

“I learned how to be accountable and disciplined in my work ethic,” Ylijaah said. “I learned to not let my team down and I do what I need to do so that the team could thrive.”

After many years of playing football, Johnson knows the ins and outs of the game, and hopes to pass some of the things he has learned on to the next generation of athletes.

“The most important lesson football taught me about life is that it takes the entire team to be successful,” Johnson said. “Nobody can be successful in life purely on their own; in some shape or form, any person that achieves success, received help or guidance from someone else growing up.”

Johnson encourages Ylijaah and every other player to make the most of their time on the field because it is a limited-time experience that creates a lifetime of memories.

“My advice to Ylijaah is to enjoy his senior year and cherish this time,” Johnson said. “Having the opportunity to play at the collegiate level is a great accomplishment, but playing high school football in the state of Texas on Friday nights is a special feeling as well. Now that I’m back here coaching, sometimes I find myself wishing I could have one more chance to be out there playing on Fridays nights.”