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Student Spotlight: Elijah Cottrill

Monday, March 7, 2016

Student Spotlight: Elijah Cottrill
Polk State Changed Life On and Off the Court


For sophomore Elijah Cottrill, sports was an important part of his life from an early age. Growing up in Beaver Falls, PA, he played football and basketball, starting football at age four. As the third of nine children, college was not even talked about in his home. Elijah recalls, “Growing up, I never thought I would go to college. My plan was to go straight to the NFL to play professional football.”

Elijah was passionate about both sports, and in eighth grade, the local high school basketball coach came to watch him play. He later told Elijah that when he entered ninth grade, he could be a part of the varsity team—he ended up playing as a starter.

During his senior year, Elijah was injured twice, and his future in sports and college appeared uncertain. However, Elijah attended the same high school that former Polk State athlete Lance Jeter attended, and after Elijah’s coach and Lance’s uncle contacted Coach Matt Furjanic, the opportunity to come to Florida and play for Polk State provided a second chance.

According to Elijah, Polk State has given him more than just a second chance on the basketball court. “In high school, I had terrible grades and made bad choices. Coming to Polk State has changed my life because I have been able to experience more than I would have at home. Coach Furjanic is there for us, and my teammates are like my brothers.”

As a freshman, Elijah was named to the Florida College System Activities Association (FCSAA) All-Academic Team. Players must have at least a 3.3 GPA and must have taken 18 credits during the current academic year to be eligible for this distinction. Although his English teacher in high school could see his potential, his time at Polk State College has helped Elijah see the possibilities that education provides.

Elijah plans to continue his education and his basketball career at a four-year institution next year. While currently majoring in Criminal Justice, his long-term goal is to work with kids, and to show them that there are ways to get out of a bad neighborhood. “All of my friends from home are either in jail or on the streets, and that could easily have been my path. I have been fortunate to have a summer job back home where we go into the projects, meet with young kids, feed them, share a Bible verse, and do activities with them all summer to provide a positive influence in their lives.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree, Elijah hopes to play professional basketball in Europe for a few years in order to earn money to start his own nonprofit children’s organization. “I didn’t grow up with a lot, and I have been fortunate to have coaches in my life who have served as father figures. My dream is to work with young kids and be that role model for them.”