Georgia State Panthers safety Remy Lazarus (21) runs after intercepting the ball during the second half of a college football game against Furman Paladins at Georgia State Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, in Atlanta. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL
Photo: Branden Camp
Photo: Branden Camp

The journey of Remy Lazarus: From ticket office to football captain at Georgia State

Remy Lazarus almost missed the phone call that changed his life and initiated his journey from the Georgia State ticket office to the captaincy of the football team.  

Lazarus was taking a quick shower before going to class when assistant coach P.J. Volker called to invite him to walk on to the Panthers football team. Somewhere between shampoo-rinse-repeat, Volker left a voice message. Lazarus was shaken to learn he had missed a call and perhaps an opportunity. But it turned out personal hygiene had been only a temporary obstacle.

“I still have the voice mail saved,” Lazarus said. “I thought I had missed my chance. I thought, ‘He’s never going to answer my callback.’ But he called back and that’s all she wrote.”

Lazarus had been a good player at Kings Ridge Christian in Alpharetta, where he was a teammate of Georgia State receiver Penny Hart, now in the NFL. He was scouted, but not offered any preferred walk-on status, so Lazarus decided to enroll at Georgia State as a regular student.

During registration, his parents – against his wishes – signed him up to work for various organizations, and Lazarus was assigned to the ticket office. If he couldn’t play football, he would at least be near the program. It also gave him an opportunity to get to know the coaches, learn how the program worked and “drop a word in their ear.”

Lazarus received the life-changing phone call in February 2016 and immediately set about making his presence known on the field. He did it by putting forth great energy during practice, soaking in the instruction and playing every down with maximum effort. 

Then-coach Trent Miles noticed the defensive dervish. As a reward for his effort and hard work, he allowed Lazarus to travel with the team.

“I was giving full-out effort on the scout team,” Lazarus said. “He let me come on the trips, even though I wasn’t going to play. From that moment, I realized if I just kept doing what I’d been doing and working hard, I knew I had a chance.”

His odds of playing improved after Miles left and Shawn Elliott was hired as the head coach in 2017. 

“When Coach came in, he gave everyone a clean slate,” Lazarus said. “He told everyone, ‘I don’t care who you are, scholarship, non-scholarship, the best guys are going to play.’ I took that as my opportunity.”

Lazarus played right away. He was on every special team to start the season and eventually worked his way onto the field at safety. By his junior season, Lazarus was starting at free safety and had 75 tackles, second-most on the team.

Lazarus had hip surgery in 2018 and worried his playing days may be over. Not only was he able to return, he was named one of the team’s captains. It was an honor based on effort and leadership as much for on-field accomplishments.

“He’s a great young man,” Elliott said. “Very intelligent. He’s earned everything and rightfully so because he’s done everything the right way. He leads the right way. He’s one of those all-around great guys you need on your football team and want on your football team.”

This season Lazarus has started three games and has 16 tackles. His biggest moment came when he made a crucial interception in the fourth quarter to set up a touchdown that beat Furman. He had seven tackles in Saturday’s 57-10 loss to Western Michigan. 

Lazarus and the rest of the Georgia State defense needs a better effort this week when the Panthers travel to Texas State for the Sun Belt Conference opener. Kickoff is 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN-Plus.

“Hopefully that was just a wake-up call,” Lazarus said. “We need to come back and respond. It was definitely a slap in the face. I think we’ll respond well.”

The practices this week have been intense, a good sign, Elliott said. 

“I told them if we continue to practice like that, we have a chance,” Elliott said. “It was good to see them come out with a good mindset and getting better.”

Texas State is 0-3, with losses coming against Texas A&M, Wyoming and SMU. The series is tied 3-3; the Bobcats won 40-31 in Atlanta in 2018. 

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