Talking to a French Survivor

Football player Jeremih Mogni shares his journey to Canadian university football

Jeremih Mogni has a pair of cleats hanging in his room, with “2017” written on them. That’s when the cornerback for the Concordia Stingers football team aims to return from a season-ending injury. Mogni tore his right ACL two days before the start of the 2016football season, but admits the injury was a life-changing event.

“When I say to others that it’s the best injury that’s happened to me in my life, they say, ‘what are you saying?’” Mogni said. “It made me better as a person.”

Like many student-athletes, Mogni has faced many challenges in his young life. This dreadful injury has been Mogni’s toughest roadblock yet. But a knee injury wasn’t going to hold him back.

“I came too far, I paved a long path to get here. It’s impossible that one injury like that ruins my dreams and my objectives,” Mogni said.

Mogni’s journey to Concordia is an interesting and unique one. It started in Sevran, France, an impoverished suburb just outside of Paris. The town saw over 10,000 crimes committed  in 2014, according to Linternaute.

“[It’s] One of the most dangerous cities in France,” Mogni said. “It’s crazy, a lot of drugs.”

This rough lifestyle did not knock Mogni or his tough character down. Rather, it helped him become stronger and realize the only way out is through success. He said too many athletes from Sevran don’t grasp that concept.

“I know there are a lot of guys like me there who could be here and are stronger than players here, but it’s their choices that makes the differences,” Mogni said.

Mogni is lucky to have made the right choices which allowed him to excel in his football career. Surprisingly, he only began playing football as a teenager. He practised taekwondo as a kid, and did not watch his first football game on TV until he was 15 years old. He immediately fell in love with the sport and started playing flag football. He eventually got into tackle football at 17.

In 2013, at 19 years old, he came to Canada to play for CEGEP de Thetford. He helped contribute to a rebuilding football team, as they went to the Division III semi-finals in 2013, and finals in 2014. He just missed out on a championship ring, as the CEGEP won the Division III championship last season, while he was playing in his rookie year with the Stingers.

Mogni played as a receiver with Thetford and in his first season with the Stingers, but was asked to switch to cornerback this year.

The French Survivors are a group of five football players from France. Photo courtesy of Jeremih Mogni.

He was shooting upwards until his injury tried to keep him grounded. With his dreams on the brink of falling apart, he remembered his journey. He remembered all the guys who could be in his position, and he took a positive view on life.

“Sometimes, like after my surgery, I wanted to quit, I wanted to find something else,” Mogni said. “But I think of where I came from. I think of the guys who want to be here. I am blessed.”

Mogni, who comes from a family of six children, also thought about how his mother has supported him over the course of his football journey. He said he plays for his family and has never played for only himself.

“People around me think I play football to go to the NFL or CFL,” Mogni said. “But in reality, I never started football with that in my head. I started football because I loved it, and I wanted a way to make my life better, and that of my parents.”

For these reasons, Mogni sees himself as a survivor, and created a group called the “French Survivors.” The group consists of five hard-working football players in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) division who hail from France. He said he hopes to grow the French Survivors and include students from other sports and disciplines too.

“French Survivors is not just about football, it’s about life,” Mogni said. “You’re struggling to pay rent, but you’re still going to school to play football and earn a degree. You are a survivor.”

The group’s origin story reflects the kind of life Mogni has lived. He said he was sitting in his dorm room in Thetford Mines, and he thought, “Life is tough.” Looking back on it, he wanted to create the group to unite football players who were going through tough times.

Mogni made the group after getting injured, and he said he has matured since. He views life in a positive way, and knows everything happens for a reason. He said he kept wondering why he was injured. He’d heard about ACL injuries happening to other players but never considered that it might happen to him. He he has allowed it to become a positive experience he has grown from. After all, he is a survivor.

“Everything starts in the head. If everything is well in the head, everything else will be fine,” he said. “You have to stay positive. Life is made of steps, and you can’t be crying, ‘oh why always me?’ There’s always worse than you in the world.”

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