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Football Tab 2018: Yellow Jackets’ Liu ready to lead way

Randolph Macon Academy's Yiming Liu stretches with his teammates at the start of their recent practice. Liu is the only returning starter on the offensive line for the Yellow Jackets. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Two years ago Yiming Liu didn’t know very much about football. Now as he starts his senior season at Randolph-Macon Academy, he is one of the team’s most experienced players.

Liu, who is from Xian, China, said he tried out for football his sophomore season and quickly realized he had a lot to learn.

“I didn’t understand anything,” Liu said. “It was mostly about the plays, the blocks, the terminology.”

Liu, an offensive and defensive lineman, said he didn’t play much his sophomore season, a year which saw the Yellow Jackets just miss making the postseason.

In the following offseason, Liu discovered something that would prove to be very important to his success – the weight room.

R-MA head coach Frank Sullivan said that Liu, who goes by the nickname of Frank, was so dedicated to getting better that they had to limit how much Liu could be in the weight room.

“He really became interested in the weight room to a point where he was lifting too much,” Sullivan said. “We had to tell people don’t let Frank (Liu) in the weight room on the weekends when it’s an open gym. He was in a (Physical Education) class lifting weights. He was after school lifting weights. So he was interested in getting better and that’s helped him sort of find his niche.”

With the success he’s had in the weight room, Sullivan said that he’s seen Liu’s confidence grow and he’s become a leader on the team.

This season the Yellow Jackets have another offensive lineman from China, Binglong Lei, and Liu said he’s enjoyed trying to help Lei learn the game.

“It feels good because I actually learn more when I tell him what to do,” Liu said. “I might not know something while trying to teach him and then I learn about it as well.”

Sullivan said Liu, who is the only returning starter on R-MA’s offensive line, is a great leader for the team.

“Everyone likes him,” Sullivan said. “He’s a quiet leader. He’s sort of like the old EF Hutton commercial when Frank (Liu) speaks everyone’s listening. That doesn’t happen a lot but he usually has something meaningful or helpful to give to his teammates.”

Liu said he doesn’t mind that offensive linemen don’t get a lot of attention or praise. Liu said he enjoys playing the position, but one part stands out as his favorite feeling of being a lineman: “When a running back goes through your block and maybe gets a touchdown – that really feels good,” Liu said.

Liu said it feels different this year being a senior on the team.

“I feel responsible sometimes for everyone to get better,” Liu said.

He started last year on the offensive line and played sparingly on the defensive line. This year Sullivan said he expects Liu to start both ways and be a key component to both the offensive and defensive lines.

Liu said he’s really enjoyed his time at R-MA and playing football. He said there are many differences between living in China and America, especially with the schools.

“They have different sports,” Liu said. “In China, I think we focus more on study. Most of my friends from China were taking exams to get into college while I was back in China (this summer).”

Last year the Yellow Jackets struggled to a 2-7 record and lost a lot of players from last year’s squad to graduation.

Sullivan said that he had 18 players out for the first week of practice, but he was expecting more to arrive before school starts on Aug. 26. Sullivan said he feels good about this year’s team.

“I think it’s going to be a good team,” Sullivan said. “We have a lot of growing to do. Kids have changed positions, but their attitudes have been fantastic and they’re not getting down on theirselves. So that’s been a positive.”