One of the greatest take always from my childhood is that I never really knew we were poor. We moved a lot but always had everything we needed and sometimes a little more. As I got older I realized more that we didn’t have as much as most of my friends, but also had more than some of my friends, but I never treated any of my friends differently just as my parents did.
I wasn’t a good student, not because I was dumb, simply because I was lazy I also just barely got by academically but excelled athletically.
My 9th grade year a 75% rule was put in place at my school and though I had a B in the class I failed because I didn’t do 75% of the work. I missed my first high school basketball season and I was crushed. I didn’t quit, butt I also didn’t start giving it my all. I did what I was required to 75%. The next 3 years I was able to play and had a very good high school career and was physically prepared to go play college basketball.
I was well connected through a brother of a former NBA player who put me in contact with many coaches throughout the country. They loved my game film but hated my transcript, I graduated with a 1.9 gpa and a slightly above average SAT score. JUCO was my only option. I received a scholarship to play at one of the top JUCO in the country, I played a few preseason games but made excuses and quit, not because wasn’t good enough I was prepared mentally for the demands of the program and took the lazy way out and transferred to a less known program. I played 1 year and really focused on my grades finishing with a team high 3.6 gpa.
That fall my daughter was born and I stopped going to school to work and become a family man. I spent the next few years raising a family and working and never really looked back on what might have been I was happy with my life.
I was 5 years into my job at Amtrak and bid into a gang that was doing some illegal things. My gut and a few friends told me to get out of there but the ease of work and little extra side money for recycling “trash” seemed like the better idea. I stayed and eventually the guys go popped and took me down with them. I was mid 20’s in a federal courtroom faces big charges for what I felt like was doing my job and turning in trash. Thankfully the judges believed me and with it being my first and only criminal activity I walked away with a year of unsupervised probation. I resigned from Amtrak for many reasons but mostly for the fresh start.
I stopped chasing money and started chasing a purpose, I wanted to find something I was truly passionate about and I did.
I started working with troubled and special needs students. I didn’t make much money but I loved what i did. I worked in schools for 6 years and planned on finishing school and doing this for the rest of my life, but then things changed suddenly.
I had my gallbladder removed and hernia repaired in June of 2015, no big deal back to normal in 6 weeks. While removing my gallbladder the doctors found some swollen lymph nodes and sent me to see a specialist. Ok, I’m a little scared but Ill be fine. August of 2015 doctors ended up finding a rare form of cancer called penile cancer. Well damn that sucks but it can be easily removed if caught early. September 1st they do the surgery remove to majority of my penis and some lymph nodes in my grown but cancer was successfully removed from my body. Awesome a few weeks and Ill be back to work, I thought. on September 15th I became very sick and 2 days later I had an emergency liver transplant, they still don’t know why my liver failed. Doctors assumed I wouldn’t recover from the surgery and prepared my family for he worsts. I came out from surgery still really sick but slowly improving. I spent the next few months recovering in the hospital and finally was sent home in November. With an entirely new perspective on life.
I was eager to get back to work and my life. I tried working in schools for the next 2 years but couldn’t stay out of the hospital long enough to maintain a full time job. So I gave it up o focus on my health and giving back to others.
Through the transplant community I was introduced to the transplant games and was able to compete in Spain summer of 2018 where I lead team USA to gold in basketball and a few individual track medals. Summer of 2019 I represented Maryland in Salt Lake City where we fell short in the gold medal game and came home with a silver in basketball, but I medaled in track events and doubles tennis.
Through my success in sports pre and post transplant along with high school I came home knowing exactly what I wanted to do. Give back to my community that helped me get to the games, but also reach out to kids and teach them skills to use in sport and life…
No matter your circumstance we all face some sort of adversity and if we aren’t prepared to handle it in a positive way we are likely to repeat our mistakes. I am not perfect I have made many mistakes and I didn’t always learn from them right away. I will make more mistakes throughout life but I owe them all and use them to better myself and help others not make the same mistakes I did.
With Pop’s Culture I plan to help whoever I can in anyway I can. I didn’t get to where I am today alone and if it wasn’t for something else losing there life I wouldn’t even be alive today.