By AnnaGrace Hale | Sports Writer
Baylor Homecoming holds something special for everyone, and for student-athletes from Waco, this tradition may even be more special. After growing up with the annual celebration, the players gained a new perspective on what homecoming is, not only as a student, but also as an athlete.
This homecoming for defensive lineman Jaxon Player is more unique. After graduating from Waco’s Midway High School in 2018, Player ventured to Oklahoma to play at the University of Tulsa. Now a fifth-year senior, he has returned home to represent his childhood team, the Baylor Bears. Player said he still has pictures of himself at Floyd Casey Stadium, decked out in the green and gold.
“I’ve been loving Baylor since I was a kid,” Player said. “I finally get to rep the green and gold.”
Player’s family is still in Waco, which makes the move back that much sweeter. Home is just down the road.
“I’m a big family guy. With my family being eight minutes away from me, all my friends and family can come to my games,” Player said. “When I’m done with football for the day, I can go relax with them. It’s way better than being six hours away like I was [at Tulsa].”
Baylor baseball sophomore catcher Cortlan Castle is also a Midway High School graduate. Castle said he is very familiar with Homecoming.
“I think Baylor has one of the best Homecoming traditions of all time,” Castle said. “I’m looking forward to the parade. I’ll be there. The floats are all really cool. Some of my friends are involved in that.”
Baylor soccer defender Kayley Ables checks in next as a local native. The Waco High School graduate has seen many homecomings, but she said she had never been to the parade until she was committed to play for the Bears.
Now as a student athlete, Ables sees another side of Homecoming. Because soccer is in season and often has games on Sundays, the players don’t get to attend the Homecoming football games.
“If we have a Sunday game, they limit [attending the game] just because they don’t want us on our feet,” Ables said. “So they limit how long we can be there, or if it’s a night game, probably not [allowed to watch].”
Even though Ables and her teammates miss some of the Homecoming traditions, that doesn’t make the weekend any less special. Ables said being from Waco, she takes more pride in Baylor Homecoming.
“I’m planning on moving to Houston in May,” Ables said. “So, I think it’s just going to be weird because Waco has just always been home. It has a special place in my heart. So, I can definitely see myself coming back to Waco and going back to parades in the future. It definitely is a special place.”