As the only theology major on Boston College’s football team, Joey Launceford has learned about incorporating spirituality into his everyday life.
“I probably won’t become a priest because I don’t think that’s in the cards for me,’’ said the 5-foot-10-inch, 190-pound senior kicker from Seattle. “But I can take what I’ve learned and apply it to how I have relationships with other people and treat other people.’’
Nothing, it seems, was a bigger test of Launceford’s faith than the first three years he spent as a walk-on. It was thankless work, which often went unrewarded and unrecognized, until Launceford finally was given his chance in Saturday’s 30-7 season-opening victory over UMass at Gillette Stadium.
It culminated what Launceford called a “surreal couple of days,’’ which began last Monday when he began sharing live reps in practice with fellow senior kicker Alex Howell, a scholarship player from Florence, S.C.
After performing well in practice, Launceford learned Thursday he likely would have a role against UMass. On Friday afternoon, Launceford’s role was defined. He would handle all PATs and short-range field goal attempts while Howell would handle all long-range field goals, punts, and kickoffs.
Everything seemed to come together for Launceford. Playing in front of his parents, Karen and John, and 19-year-old sister, Megan, Launceford made his collegiate debut. He converted field goals of 28 and 21 yards, and hit all three of his extra-point attempts in the victory.
“Before the game, one of the captains came up to me and said, ‘Everyone on this team is rooting for you right now, so you should be confident because we all want you to do well and we know you can,’ ” Launceford recalled. “So when I went out there, I just thought of everyone who had supported me and everyone on the team who wanted me to do well.’’
‘Throughout this whole process, I’ve just been so thankful . . . for the opportunities I’ve been blessed with — and not only just this past week, it’s easy to be thankful for — but just being at Boston College.’
Howell was included among Launceford’s supporters.
“He’s been unbelievable,’’ Launceford said. “Some people would be like, ‘He’s taking reps from me,’ and stuff like that. But he has been above and beyond supportive of me and helping me out, so I’m very thankful for his friendship throughout this whole process.’’
The highlight came Monday afternoon when Launceford was called into coach Steve Addazio’s office. He was awarded a scholarship, along with fellow walk-on Jeffrey Jay, a 6-2, 197-pound wide receiver from Greenwich, Conn.
“He’s a hard-working kid and he’s everything that BC stands for — Jeff Jay as well,’’ Addazio said. “So Joey and Jeff, those are guys who have earned starting roles on our team. They’ve been Model A guys in our program and they work really hard, they’re really good students, and they’re great BC guys.
“It’s a great opportunity for your guys to earn a scholarship and to show that if you come out and you walk on, you can earn something.’’
Launceford said when he walked out of Addazio’s office, he spotted Jay nervously waiting for his meeting. Launceford was rendered speechless by his scholarship offer. All he could do was wave Jay into Addazio’s office.
“It means a lot to me and my family, because tuition is expensive here,’’ Launceford said. “It’s been a burden, but it’s been worth it. Obviously, it’s been tough on my parents, but they’ve been above and beyond supportive of me. A major reason that I’ve been able to keep a positive attitude has been because of the love and support from my parents.’’
Launceford immediately broke the news to his parents, who were outside the Yawkey Athletics Center waiting to take Joey and Megan out to dinner before Megan’s Tuesday night flight to Austria to study abroad.
“It was my sister’s last night before going abroad, so I didn’t want to steal her thunder, but I kind of did,’’ Launceford said with a laugh. “She’ll complain that I’ve been doing that her entire life, but it was awesome. But my Mom was in tears. She tears up for everything. It was a cool experience. I’m glad that I got to tell them in person.’’
Launceford said his mother will hang around this week, staying with relatives, so she can attend BC’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener against Pittsburgh on Friday night at Alumni Stadium. His father will be home in Seattle, watching the game on ESPN.
Meanwhile, Launceford will continue to count the many blessings of support he’s received from family, friends, coaches, and teammates in his journey from walk-on to scholarship player.
“Throughout this whole process,’’ he said, “I’ve just been so thankful to God, to my family, and everyone for the opportunities I’ve been blessed with — and not only just this past week, it’s easy to be thankful for — but just being at Boston College.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.