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Anthony, playing in memory of his mother and grandmother, stepping up at cornerback for Liberty
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Anthony, playing in memory of his mother and grandmother, stepping up at cornerback for Liberty

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There is not a day that goes by when Daijahn Anthony doesn’t think about the two most important women in his life. He remembers the lessons they taught him growing up in Richmond. The unconditional love they showered on him. The sacrifices they made through life’s challenges to ensure he and his two brothers and one sister had every opportunity to succeed.

Anthony, a redshirt sophomore cornerback in his first season at Liberty, does everything to honor the memory of his mother and grandmother, two women and role models he has lost in the past 10 years. Every snap on the Williams Stadium turf is played to his fullest potential, as he tries to live up to the standard they set for him.

“Just dealing with all of that adversity, it’s just helping me become who I am today and it’s just really made me a stronger person and I just really want to make them proud day in and day out, every day,” Anthony said Tuesday. “Whenever I’m down, I just think about what would my grandma do, what would my grandma say, what would my momma do, what would my momma say? I just look at it like that.”

Anthony’s mother, Latasha Pair, died Sept. 17, 2011, because of kidney failure. His grandmother, Virginia Pair, took over raising Anthony and his three siblings in their Henrico County home, and she made sure he had everything he needed until seven months ago when she lost her battle with cancer on March 5.

“He’s been through a lot of adversity in his life and his struggle has made him who he is,” defensive coordinator Scott Symons said, “so I’ve just got a lot of respect for him as a young man.”

Symons said Anthony played his best game in a Liberty uniform this past weekend against Middle Tennessee. The 6-foot, 205-pound cornerback recorded a career-high four tackles, matched his career best with three solo stops, posted his first tackle for a loss and matched another career high with two pass breakups.

It was Anthony’s first extended playing time as he moved up the depth chart following Marcus Haskins’ decision to enter the transfer portal.

“Everything’s been a blessing,” said Anthony, who posted three tackles in his first four games with Liberty.

Anthony, who wears an oversized shirt underneath his practice uniform with the hashtag #RIPMOMMA in bold, white letters to honor his mother, had to channel the lessons his mother and grandmother taught him during the early stages of training camp.

Anthony tore his meniscus during practice and said his “mental was not first in the first couple of hours and in the first day” after he received the results of the MRI. He was given two options on how he wanted to proceed with surgery — either remove it completely and face a one-month recovery, or go through a process in which the meniscus was repaired or replaced with a five-month timetable before he could return.

He listened to Barry Finke, Liberty football’s athletic trainer, and his coaches, and their encouragement helped him decide on having the cartilage removed.

Anthony was playing by the Sept. 11 game at Troy.

“I wasn’t really looking at it as a negative. I took it as a positive to help my teammates more, get my faith with God better and just really sit back and evaluate,” Anthony said. “Maybe God was just telling me, you need to slow down. You’ve been going so fast, now let’s set you back and see how you react from this. Once I figured out God got a plan for me, I just really was in a good state of mind.”

Anthony was working as hard as he could to make an impact on his new teammates at Liberty at the time of his injury. He spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons at Division II Shepherd and recorded 14 tackles, two interceptions and three pass breakups in the ’19 campaign.

Anthony credited the NCAA’s decision to pause the eligibility clock in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic to allow him to enter the transfer portal and take his time finding the right fit. He returned home in September following his grandmother’s cancer diagnosis, and he spent the next four months caring for her and training for his next opportunity.

That opportunity came in a call from Liberty cornerbacks coach Rickey Hunley, who offered Anthony a spot as a preferred walk-on. Anthony was on campus in January as a mid-year enrollee.

“Daijahn is a little bit more of the attitude of the group, you know what I mean? He’s a guy that trusts his ability 100%, but he’s fully bought into what we’ve asked him to do,” Hunley said in training camp.

Symons raved about Anthony’s competitive nature and having a cornerback of his size and length be as physical as him. The defensive coordinator credited that as a “testament to him and his work ethic to come here as a walk-on and to really outwork some guys that were on scholarship to put himself in that situation.”

“He’s a dog. He has a dog mentality,” Symons added. “There’s no situation where he’s not going to have confidence to go up against anybody.”

Anthony has credited Duron Lowe and Chris Megginson with helping his game on the field, and he said the work he did in the classroom with Kristie Beitz, the senior associate athletic director for academic affairs, allowed him to be eligible to play this semester.

“They made the process real smooth. It was a very good transition,” he said.

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