Tot Ziens and 5301 Forever | By Bryce Wilson

Tot Ziens and 5301 Forever | By Bryce Wilson

Over the past two summers, the Saint Leo Athletic Department suffered two losses greater than those that come in any sporting event. In July 2015, Saint Leo lost Jules Verdin, the 2014 Sunshine State Champion Men's Soccer Freshman of the Year.  This past July, the Lions lost Griffin Clark, a member of the Lions' 2016 NCAA Division II national championship team. While the entire athletic department was affected, junior Bryce Wilson was directly impacted by the loss of both student-athletes. Below, Wilson reminisces on the memories he shared with his two friends.

After my first couple years of college, I have come to the realization that there are two ways to become thoroughly acquainted with someone in just a matter of months.

The first of the two is to become their teammate. Go through the struggles of preseason, injuries, and last minute losses as well as triumph during come from behind wins, first goals, and overtime victories. Give blood, sweat and tears for each other, day in and day out. Lean on each other when times get tough and celebrate feats, no matter how big or small. Do all these things and you will create a bond like never before.

The second way I have learned to become fully acquainted with someone in just a short period is to live with them. Experience the feeling of going from complete strangers to best friends in a matter of weeks. Vent to them, laugh with them and fight with them as if they are your sibling. Learn to accept one another even though you might be opposites and your friendship will soon be everlasting.

In my two years at Saint Leo University, I have developed some of the best relationships I have ever had, but I am writing now to talk about two in particular.    

The first of the two is my teammate, Jules Verdin. Jules, like me, entered Saint Leo at the age of 18 as a freshman on the soccer team. Although we were the same age, Jules almost immediately became somebody that I looked up to. Not only was he a fantastic soccer player, but an amazing person. There was something about Jules that made it almost impossible for anybody to dislike him. He lived life to the fullest and had fun with everything he did. I can vividly remember numerous times where I walked into the locker room to see Jules dancing alone to EDM music, looking up at me only to smile and wave, and then continue dancing as if he was still the only person in the room. He exemplified what it was like to be happy and spread that feeling throughout all of his peers.

On July 7th, 2015, I learned that Jules had passed away in a hiking accident in Switzerland. Having not even reached his 20th birthday, one of the most charismatic and joyous people I have ever come across wouldn't live to see another day. I realized that after seeing Jules almost every day for nine months straight, I would never get to see him again. Over a year has gone by since Jules passed away, and there hasn't been a single day where I didn't think about him. No matter the occasion, I always sport my bracelet that reads "JV 5 TOT ZIENS" which spans from his initials, number, and the phrase "see you soon" in his native language. 

The second person I'm here to talk about is my roommate, Griffin Clark. When I first met Griffin on move-in day, I wasn't quite sure how our relationship would pan out. I thought that we might just be the type of roommates that never talked to each other, just lived in the same apartment and acted like we weren't there. Shortly after, I came to the realization that things would not, in fact, be that way. Griffin quickly became one of my best friends on campus as well as my personal golf instructor while I became his caddy. He was somebody that I could confide in, laugh with or just sit with in silence to keep each other company. In Griffin, I saw growth that I never before had in a person. He went from a boy with broken spirits and a broken jaw to a man full of life and a national championship under his belt in a matter of months.

On July 4th, 2016, Griffin passed away in a car accident just miles away from his home in Virginia. He was 21-years-old and at what seemed to be the peak of his life, only to have it cut short. I realized that never again would I get to experience a spur of the moment poker night or a day on the golf course with him. Never again would he come in to interrupt my homework and talk my ear off for hours on end. Not even two months have passed, and it's still so unreal to me that I will never again get to see my roommate from room 5301.

In the span of just under a year, I have lost both a teammate and a roommate, but more than that, I have lost two brothers. With that being said, never would I ever wish away any of the memories I had with either of them, even if it did relinquish me from all the heartbreak. Jules and Griffin have impacted my life in ways that I never before thought was possible. Through Jules, I learned to live life to the fullest and love every minute of it and through Griffin, I learned to be resilient through tough times because the best is yet to come.

Tot Ziens and 5301 forever.