Most little kids grow up watching their sports idols on the field, on the court, or in the pool – with a goal in mind of being just like them when they grow up. Not all athletes take the same path. Some have obstacles put in their way. Some are told they just aren’t good enough, which pushes them to prove that they are because they have a dream they want to accomplish.
Football’s James Pavik may not have been the star player growing up, but he knew his hard work and determination would get him noticed, and pay off.
Pavik is the youngest of five children to James Sr. and Deona. He grew up in an athletic, and competitive family. His dad played a year of football, but hung up his cleats to focus on hockey while his mom was a majorette at the University of Georgia.
“I get my physicality from my dad and I get all my footwork from my mom,” Pavik laughed. “I get the split even-even.”
Growing up, Pavik could not stay away from the game. He went to his brother’s practices and games, standing on the sidelines as the team’s water boy. He didn’t limit his time to the football field, as he went to his sister’s swim meets or water polo matches too.
“It really helped me learn a lot through them, especially through my brother, Christian. He was a senior when I was in eighth grade and he would bring me into his workouts to get introduced into weightlifting. So my summer before ninth grade, I hit the ground running and had an idea of what to do,” Pavik said. “He was also helpful when it came to recruiting, and the process that high school is – as far as going to camps, and he helped me to be a leader on the team, and how to stand out.”
Pavik’s was not heavily recruited during his senior football season at Mathews High School, a small, 1A school on the eastern tip of Virginia‘s Middle Peninsula.
“Being from a small school, you have to go the extra step. Some can argue that the competition level is not on par with bigger schools, and that’s true to an extent, but there are definitely some athletes out there. It’s just taking a chance and getting noticed,” Pavik said.
Knowing he needed to make himself standout among the state’s best, he went to several football camps in the area during the summer of his junior year. Oddly enough he did not attend a Richmond camp.
In January of his senior year, Pavik was called into Coach White’s office (his high school football coach). He was introduced to Wayne Lineburg, who was the Associate Head Coach and running backs coach at the University of Richmond at the time. The two set up a time for Pavik to visit the University.
“It really set the bar on all levels,” he said on his visit to campus. “It felt like home. It was a very personable and comfortable atmosphere. That really set the bar for me.”
Following Pavik’s visit to the University of Richmond, he had a couple other campus visits to make, but none left an impression on him like Richmond did.
To help solidify his decision, Pavik remembered his parents teaching him and his siblings that academics were just as important as athletics.
“The big thought that came to me was if something happened to me and my athletic career was over – where do I want to get my degree from? For me, the University of Richmond had much more weight to that equation,” he said.
The decision was made, and Pavik would become a Spider. He arrived at the University in 2012.
“I came in with a chip on my shoulder kind of from the start,” he said. “Being a walk-on, my high school coach just kept telling me to get on the bus and get noticed and I took that to heart. Immediately I tried to differentiate myself just with my work ethic and my hard-nosed attitude. I knew I was going to have to work harder whether it was film, in the weight room or taking reps, it was also what I did in the offseason. Over time the coaches gained confidence in me.”
Since joining the Spiders, Pavik has played in 38 games, including eight starts – six of which came last season. The redshirt senior also scored his first touchdown for Richmond last year against VMI. Prior to the start of his final season with the Spiders, Pavik was also named to the Preseason All-Colonial Athletic Association team.
Pavik’s relentlessness has paid dividends. After returning to campus from winter break, Pavik and his teammates received some news from Coach Rocco. Pavik was now a scholarship player.
“It was an accomplished feeling to see my hard work meeting fruition as that is one of the goals I had set out for myself ever since coming to Richmond. It was a dream come true. I called my parents that night and told my mom, who was on speaker phone with my dad, and they were ecstatic for me – stating how proud of me they were and that they believed in me from the start. They’ve always told me I can accomplish anything I put my mind to and that’s something that stuck with me throughout my life. It made me so happy I could finally give back to them after all they’ve done to support me. Their happiness was so overwhelming it made me tear up. It was definitely a feeling and a night I’ll never forget.”