BELTON, TX (FOX 44) — Throw out all of the stats, the wins and the losses. The only number that matters to sophomore wide receiver Jerry Cephus and his family is the same number he wears across his chest.
“Everyone has a number that means something to them,” Cephus said. “So, when I got the number, I knew that I had to represent it.”
Cephus dons the number 11, something he’s been wearing on his uniform since his high school days at Little River Academy.
“It just means so much to us,” Jerry’s father Cory Stricklin said.
In March of 2019, that number became a symbol of hope. Doctors discovered that Jerry’s brother, Brock Stricklin, had a tumor on his brain. 16 hours after his family learned the news, Brock went into emergency surgery.
“There was never a doubt in my mind, I just fist-bumped my dad and was like ‘alright, I’ll be back’,” Brock said.
He survived the potentially life-threatening procedure but lost nearly all motor functions.
“That was tough,” Cory said. “Learning how to breathe, make a noise, do anything. He worked hard for all that stuff.”
Through all the hard work, one message came into focus. One symbol of hope.
“[The] number 11 was the number of reps I’d do in the hospital when I was in therapy,” Brock said. “They would say do ten and I would always do one more because that would mean I’m one day closer to going home and seeing my family.”
Brock started to re-learn how to live a normal life again but his playing days were over. That’s when Jerry made the switch to number 11 on the football field.
Cephus made the UMHB varsity football team in 2022, and in week one, he called his dad with great news.
“[It’s] probably the most exciting phone call he’s given me the whole time he’s been at college, you know,” Cory said. “He said, ‘Dad I got the number!’ because it meant a lot to him.”
Jerry has made the most of his playing time so far in the Crusaders 2022 campaign and said he’ll continue to put in the work.
“[Brock inspired me the most to get up and go out here and do extra routes, lift extra and do what I can to better myself,” Cephus said.
In good health and good spirits, Brock said it’s important for those going through the same struggles to remain strong and never give up.
“Keep telling yourself every day, ‘I didn’t come this far to only come this far, every single day,” Brock said. “It’ll be over before you know it.”