There was a time when Billy Love didn’t think signing day would come for him — at least not in soccer.
So when the Eastside senior inked a letter of intent with Point University this past Tuesday, there was no reason to question why Love was all smiles.
“I’ve come a long way in the past four years as a player,” Love said.
He said it while reminiscing about how he got started on this soccer journey.
“Coach (Champ) Young brought me in as an eighth grader, and they taught me more of the technical side of the game,” Love said. “I started soccer older than most people will start a sport, and they taught me about the game, but also they taught me family first, and how to build your relationships with your teammates.”
It’s the family first mindset that caused Love to select Point over schools such as Mercer and North Georgia — the latter was, for a long time, on the top of Love’s list.
“North Georgia was the school for a long time,” he said. “But we just couldn’t come to a conclusion together with it that would make it a best fit for me. Point was just consistent over the past two years. I met with the coaches six or seven times and just found it to be the best fit for me.”
For Point to nab the services of the 6-foot center-back was a bit of an upset as far as soccer recruiting goes, given that North Georgia was where Love’s father matriculated.
“I loved the history there,” he said. “My dad graduated there. The whole dream was to go to North Georgia and play soccer. My dad went to the cadet program there, and that was going to be the plan for me just in case soccer didn’t work out.”
And, yes, there was a time when soccer looked like it wasn’t going to work out.
In fact, that’s the reason why you’ll see Love’s name listed as a kicker for the Eastside football team. And a good one he was. He made all-county and all-region as a senior, and quite possibly could’ve made a good college living at a program in search of a strong footed place kicker.
But that wasn’t Love’s chief desire.
“It’s soccer, hands down,” he said. “The reason I tried football was because I did always want to play, but tat the same time, coming into senior year I hadn’t had an offer for any school for soccer. So I figured, if not soccer, maybe football can help me get through college without my parents having to pay for it. And I enjoyed it. As you can see, my football teammates are like my family, some of them are here today. But my heart wasn’t in it though.”
Love still had aspirations to be a college football player. Credit a Young Harris College soccer coach for igniting that fire to white hot proportions.
Two years ago, Love attended his first soccer showcase where over 50 college coaches were present. Each collegiate coach would be assigned a player to shadow and observe. It was the Young Harris coach’s rave reviews of Love that prompted him to pin his ears back and go relentlessly after his dream.
“During that showcase, at the end of the day, the Young Harris coach gave me a 4 1/2 star rating out of five,” Love said. “At that point, I’m like, ‘Okay, a D-2 school is telling me I’m a 4 1/2 star center back. It’s time for me to wake up. Time to get it going and get after that.’”
Love said that was the point when he began to make a concerted effort to train and work harder than anyone else around him. And Love’s coach at Eastside, Champ Young, can corroborate the validity of Love’s claim.
“He’s one of the hardest working kids we have in this program,” Young said. “We saw the light come on about two years ago, and that’s when he really started coming on as a player. He’s wanted this since day one, so it’s good to see it come to him. He’s the epitome of what you want a student-athlete in your program to be.”
But more than just a desire to play the game of soccer, Love said he kept pursuing it because he felt another force pushing him forward, even when he was tempted to quit.
“Even when things weren’t looking good, my family told me to keep on praying and keep on trying,” Love said. “They told me that God’s got a plan. If it’s not soccer, then maybe football. If it’s not football, then maybe God’s calling you to something else.”
Ultimately, it was Love’s faith in God and a call to the game of soccer that seemed almost divine that caused things to come together at Point — not just athletically and academically, but spiritually speaking as well.
“Aside from the small, compact and family oriented feel there, I love that Point is a Christ-centered place, because I want to use that time in college, not only to develop as a player, but to develop my faith as well,” he said.
Now that a college scholarship is firm and secure, Love said he can put greater focus on finishing off his senior season on a talented Eastside squad that could be poised for a deep state tournament run.
Love said it’s the last he can do to try and repay the program for all it’s taught him about soccer and life.
“Being around (Eastside) and this program has just taught me the power of working hard and never giving up,” he said. “I see now that you can do whatever you want as long as you put your mind to it, work hard and keep God first.”