Aris Briggs and his journey from Memphis to Atlanta

Hailing from Memphis, Tennessee, Aris Briggs’ journey to Georgia State has been filled with ups and downs across the world. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

On a brisk night in late October, the Georgia State men’s soccer team faced off against the UAB Blazers. Junior striker Aris Briggs was already having an impressive season, leading the team in goals and most games with multiple goals.

Briggs slashed the ball into the back of the net three times on the night, as he dictated the flow of the game with his swift yet steady control over the ball that he used to mesmerize the opposing defense.

“Just keep scoring” are not only words that Briggs lives by but are also an embodiment of the exciting style of play that the 23-year-old from Memphis, Tennessee brings to every match. 

For Briggs, soccer was instrumental throughout his childhood, as his father’s passion for the game morphed into his own obsession.

“My dad played soccer his whole life, and from the time I could walk, I’ve had a ball at my feet,” Briggs said. “I was consumed by it.”

Briggs was born in Memphis, Tennessee, a city that he calls most famous for being the birthplace of Elvis Presley. Despite this, it was outside of the U.S. that the future Georgia State striker would fall in love with soccer. 

Brigg’s mother is Bosnian, and as a result, he spent many of his early summer years playing soccer in the streets of the southeastern European country. It was in Bosnia that Briggs’s passion for the game flourished and where the lifelong pursuit of playing at the next level started. 

“I got to play [soccer] every day during the summer. I would be in the streets from sunup to sundown,” Briggs said. “It’s just always been a big part of my life.”

The countless hours playing soccer as a youth and his high school career at Christian Brothers High School were beneficial starting places, but they couldn’t have possibly prepared Briggs for what was to come next. 

After graduation, Briggs decided to leave the U.S. and pursue a soccer career in Germany. The move would prove challenging both on and off the pitch.

“I was playing against grown men in Germany, which was different,” he said. “I was kind of spoiled as far as my parents go taking care of me. Going over there and having to go to the grocery store and shop for myself and do my own laundry, I was kind of thrown into the deep end. I learned a lot; I grew a lot as a person.”

Briggs called his two-year journey in Germany one of the most challenging he’s had so far, but that he doesn’t regret any of it and that it has made him a better player.

A nagging injury, lack of playing time and some homesickness led Briggs to move back to Atlanta, where his family had been living since his sophomore year in high school. 

Deciding to play at Georgia State was an easy decision for him, as it was one of the closest schools to his family and the Atlanta vibe encompassed one of his hobbies: making music.

However, playing on the collegiate level would prove challenging for the forward, as he took a two-year gap after high school to play in Germany. As a result, he wasn’t able to play in the NCAA in his freshman year of college. 

“The first year I had to sit out. I’m only getting three years of eligibility,” Biggs said. “I talked to coach [Brett Surrency] the first semester, and I was like, ‘Is there any way I can practice with you guys or workout?’ He said that there wasn’t.”

There was, however, some positive news for Briggs, as he was able to participate in the Georgia State walk-on tryouts. 

The bad news was that no player had ever made the team in school history from a walk-on tryout. 

Despite sitting out an entire year and facing extremely slim chances of making the team, Briggs was able to impress Georgia State coaches enough to earn a spot on the roster. 

“I had to earn my spot and earn my place on the team,” he said. 

Finally, with his family by his side, and a city that he was familiar with, Briggs was now in a position to succeed, and that’s precisely what he did. 

During the 2018 season, Briggs played in 20 matches, scoring a team-leading six goals, three of which were game-winners. 

The Panthers were also able to win the Sun Belt Conference and advance to the NCAA tournament, something Briggs said was one of the most rewarding experiences he’s had at Georgia State so far.

“The guys grew to trust me and I gained confidence from my coaches,” he said. “It was a good opportunity for me to grow as a player and as a person.”

The best was yet to come for Briggs, as the 2019 season would see the junior truly breakout, scoring a Sun Belt leading 16 goals and six matches with at least two or more goals.

Briggs would also be named Offensive Player of the Year, as the Panthers broke a school record by remaining loss-less throughout the first nine matches of the year.

Briggs praises his teammates and their chemistry, as it’s played a crucial role in the team’s success this season.

“I just think we have a really close group of guys,” he said. “Everyone plays for each other, and we get along really well together. I think that goes a long way.”

Briggs, who will play one more year for the Panthers as he becomes a senior in 2020, says that the team has lots of young talent and a bright future.

“I think Georgia State has a promising future,” Briggs said. “Most of our guys are sophomores and freshmen, and I’m happy to be apart of it. Hopefully, we’ll keep making some history.”

For the Grind City native and his fellow teammates, the hope is that the best is yet to come, as the Panthers will look to use his talents for as long as possible.