Shutdown Corners, But Not Shut Down

af seniors 2014

Last football season, we had the best two shutdown corners of anyone we played.

For you non-football folks, a “shutdown corner” is a cornerback (who plays on defense) who can effectively keep the offense’s wide receivers from having a successful game, all by himself. We had two senior cornerbacks in whom we had confidence against any opponent. One of these guys had 4 interceptions (5, if you count his all-star bowl game), and the other guy – who also was a starting running back, and missed a couple of games with a knee injury – only had one, but it sealed the game in a playoff win.

Because we had these two top-notch cornerbacks, they could shut down the opponent’s passing game, allowing our other nine defensive players to focus on the run. Their abilities, confidence, and leadership helped us reach the lower state championship game.

What makes these two men special is not just what they accomplished on the football field (or basketball court, or track), but what they’ve already accomplished in light of where they have come from.

Looking Back

Coaching football at Allendale-Fairfax High School has been a major part of The Best Two Years of My Life. But these fond memories has less to do with on-the-field success (18 wins and 5 losses, plus two region championships), and more to do the relationships that I’ve been blessed to have.

I’ve loved being a part of these guys’ lives. They are fun, though often frustratingly playful. They are smart, both of them being in the top 10 of their class. They work hard and are teachable.

These young men are two of the four guys in our youth Mentor Leader book study group. A couple of times each month, I’ve been picking them up after school, and we grab some snacks and discuss the latest chapter that we read in Tony Dungy’s book.

A couple of months ago, during one of our discussions, one of these guys said, “I’ve come from a rough childhood. I’ve been through a lot. So I want to help others in what they’re going through.”

I was stunned. When I was 18 years old, I wasn’t thinking about (much less vocalizing) a desire to be any kind of mentor leader. I was only thinking about myself. But here are some young men who aren’t just trying to make it themselves. They want to lift up others alongside them.

Battling Back

quendrell 2013I won’t go into the details of their life story. In truth, I only know a part. But know that it involves a less-than-ideal childhood:

  • Raised by single parents, or other family members
  • A sibling with a severe disability
  • Siblings who’ve run afoul with the law
  • Regular lack of access to food quantity and quality
  • Access to fewer education and job opportunities, compared to most other youth in South Carolina. (Remember, Equality Is Not Equity.)

But they’ve persevered. They have worked hard in school, and not just doing the bare-minimum. One has kept up a part-time job, and the other is taking college classes this year.

Life has tried to shut them down, but they battled back. They’ve had family, school staff, and coaches who have supported them for 18 years. And I am grateful that I’ve been given the opportunity to be a small part of their lives.

Giving Back

This is my hope and expectation for these young men: They will succeed for their own sakes. And they will lift others up and add value to others’ lives.

Now, as they venture off to college, I know they will not be shut down. I look forward to staying connected with them over the years, giving encouragement and support as needed.

Thank you for supporting us in Allendale, with your financial and prayer support. You’ve allowed us to be just one more link in the chain of support for these young men. Directly or indirectly, you have helped them press on towards success.

And now, for you and for me, let us consider who else can we encourage and support towards success.

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.”  Hebrews 10:24

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2 responses to “Shutdown Corners, But Not Shut Down”

  1. evanlaar1922 says :

    sounds like milestones marked with grace and blessing

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