On and off the Football Field, Emmanual Sowders Gives 100%

Writer / Renee Larr
Photography Provided

At the age of 5, Emmanual Sowders was taller than most of his classmates, standing at over 5 feet 4 inches tall. His mom wanted to get him involved with sports and thought football would be a natural fit for his stature. Sowders had no idea back then that football would become a lifelong love and possible future career.

During his four years as a varsity player in high school, he racked up an impressive number of accolades including district player of the year, first-team all-state, first-team all-district and first-team all-metro. He participated in the East-West All-Star contest, and was a member of the Best of the Bluegrass team.

Emmanual Sowders

“After I graduated high school, I decided I wanted to attend the University of Louisville and play football,” Sowders says. “I had a handful of offers to go play at other schools, but I decided to stay close to home and my family.”

Sowders was considering the University of Kentucky, Murray State, Purdue and Morehead State. Still, ultimately the idea of fulfilling a dream of his mother’s was the determining factor in his decision to choose UofL. His mom, Jennifer Jimenez Reyes, was a high school basketball player and dreamed of playing at the same school. Ultimately she couldn’t make those dreams come true, but Sowders wanted to honor his mom by fulfilling that dream for her.

Sowders began playing football at UofL in the spring of 2018 and spent his first year redshirted. He used that time to develop and hone his craft, learning from other team members and the coaching staff. He says during that time, he became a stronger and faster athlete.

“During my sophomore year I worked to be a better player,” Sowders says. “During that year we went to the Music City Bowl game and won. Then when I was going into junior year, COVID hit, so that was rough on everyone. I knew anything could happen at any moment, so I stayed ready for anything.”

Emmanual Sowders

He was a backup player in year four of his college career. He says he played whenever he was called upon. During year five he experienced the most playing time he’d ever had. Sowders says a fun fact is that in every game he played, his team won. During that year his team won the Fenway Bowl in Boston. They also beat the number 10 team in the country.

“During that time I was able to step up in a leadership role as well,” Sowders says. “That’s something I’m very proud of. I have the opportunity now to get a lot more playing time and possibly start this year. I play all five offensive line positions, so they can bounce me around where I’m needed.”

Sowders is also a valuable member of the Louisville community. He’s been involved in various acts of community service since he was a child.

“As a kid we always participated in fundraisers through the church,” Sowders says. “We gave food to the homeless. We donated school supplies for kids. Those church events were the foundation of my community service.”

Since then, Sowders has made it a point to volunteer through his church, and with his high school and college football teammates. He says because Louisville doesn’t have a professional football team, it has afforded his teammates more opportunities to help others.

“We participated in Habitat for Humanity and read to kids in schools,” Sowders says. “Participating in reading week with the kids is so much fun. I’ve also assisted with the IRONMAN marathon in Louisville. I’ve also worked with an organization that provides services to students who age out of the school system at 21.”

Sowders was named an Atlantic Coast Conference Top Six for Service award winner in April. The award is given annually to six student-athletes from the conference who have exemplified outstanding service in their community and community relations.

Sowders was chosen because of his extensive work with the Ronald McDonald House, UofL MLK Day of Service, fundraising efforts for the raiseRED Dance Marathon, and participating in the Thanksgiving meal drive. MLK Day of Service is dedicated to encouraging Americans to participate in community service.

Emmanual Sowders

“I’ve worked with the Ronald McDonald house a few different times,” Sowders says. “The first time I went, they had just expanded their building and finished putting in new rooms. We helped clean out all of the dust. Also, we put in cleaning supplies, stocked the individual rooms and stocked toiletries. The second time, we did a supply drive where we collected fun items for kids, toiletries and food.”

The raiseRED event is a dance-marathon-style fundraiser for pediatric oncology and hematology in Louisville. Sowders participated in a monetary fundraiser for the program. He calls the 24-hour event impressive and says his team was one of the top fundraisers.

“Obviously it’s very nice and humbling to be honored with this award, but awards aren’t why I do what I do for the community,” Sowders says. “I was very grateful to receive the award, but it’s kind of strange being awarded for just doing what I always do. It’s a humbling experience.”

So what’s next for the upcoming sixth-year senior? He will play football this fall. He jokes that he’s overstayed his welcome and that he’s been at UofL since the Great Depression, but he does have football in mind for his future.

“Depending on what kind of season I have, I could have the opportunity to go pro,” Sowders says. “With there being three leagues now, including the NFL, XFL and the USFL, there is a little more available in terms of going pro now than in the past. Also, I have the opportunity to coach. I’ve been offered offensive line coaching jobs at Jeffersontown High School and Christian Academy of Louisville.”

Sowders isn’t just a one-trick pony, though. He plays six instruments including guitar, piano, violin, viola, drums and clarinet. He’s also considering becoming a strength and conditioning coach. And don’t worry, he won’t be leaving his acts of kindness behind.

“Even with all those upcoming opportunities, I still plan to be heavily involved in community service,” Sowders says.

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