I often sit back and wonder how an inner-city athlete like myself persevered while being raised in Washington, D.C. with the "odds" stacked against me. As I reflect, I realize that it would have been easy for me to become a statistic if I had let my circumstances outweigh my determination.
Growing up in Southeast, known as one of the roughest areas in D.C., I was exposed to the "DC Street Life," which consisted of drugs and crime, at a very early age. My three sisters and I lived in a household that was plagued by violence, so we often had to move back and forth between my mother's and grandmother's homes to ensure our safety. Unfortunately, my mother was a victim of domestic violence, which caused her to slip into a deep depression and begin using drugs to cope with her pain, which ended up taking over her life for years.
Because of the environment I was exposed to in my neighborhood, we often looked up to the older guys who wore fancy clothes and sold drugs, mainly because we did not have fathers who could lead us down the right path. They were deemed as the neighborhood father figures and heroes, and that's all we had for guidance.
My grandmother was the heart and soul of our family and wanted nothing but the best for her grandchildren. Whenever I got in trouble, I felt like I was letting her down because of how hard she worked to raise us. Throughout elementary school, I fought a lot and got kicked out of school. At that point in my life, I was only living in the moment, not thinking about my future. I was going down the path that most had predicted for African American males.
Basically, I was on my way to becoming a useless black brother that was on his way to either jail or the grave.
Football, however, saved my life. My love for the game runs deep. Once I was introduced to this game, it allowed me to release all of the pent-up anger and frustration I had developed due to my life circumstances. Never did I think my love for football would take me on this journey. I became one of the best student-athletes in the DMV area and received more than 30 scholarship offers from Division I Colleges and Universities throughout the United States. It was truly a humbling experience. I ended up choosing the University of Colorado.
The University of Colorado was completely different than what I was used to. My decision surprised everyone, but it is one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. Being in Colorado allowed me to meet new people, change my mentality and develop lifelong relationships.
My goal was always to make it to the NFL and be able to provide for my family. I want to ensure my family has everything that I did not have growing up. When I finally got my chance to enter the NFL, I came in as an undrafted free agent, of which only a few make the cut.
Through hard work and determination, I am proud to say that I am now a second-year player with the New Orleans Saints.
During this off season, it is my goal to give back to my community by establishing a youth foundation and helping others that are growing up like me hopefully choose a path of passion and purpose, instead of going down the predicted route that society often holds us to.