One of the first things you say to someone when you meet them is where are you from? This has always been a tricky question for me to answer as growing up I lived in nine different states. I spent most of my childhood years up until middle school in Florida but then found myself bouncing up and down the east coast. At one point in high school, I half-jokingly would tell my mother that I’m a nomad, so I’m not actually from anywhere. By the time I came to Oberlin, I had attended three different middle schools and three different high schools. This gave me a unique perspective on life.
After Florida, the state my family lived in the longest was Baltimore, Maryland, which is where I graduated from high school. Baltimore shaped me more than Florida did. The artists I listened to went from a combination of West Coast and Southern music to Baltimore rappers. When I first moved to Baltimore the most popular rapper in the city, Lor Scoota, had recently passed away. In celebration of his life, all of my friends would play his music nonstop; the lyrics to his songs were my introduction to the culture of the city. Lor Scoota’s song lyrics, “My man, my man, I swear I love all my mans,” would uplift and motivate the football team as we lifted weights through the summer. Whenever we went home, friends would tell each other to stay safe and that they love them and whenever you posted a photo to Instagram you would be flooded with black hearts in your comments.
Baltimore is a misunderstood city. The youth that live in Baltimore City are surrounded by violence but are looking for a way out. These youth are pushed to sports and told that football is the way to escape. The ones that do make it from the city to the league become legends in Baltimore. Everyone in Baltimore wants to be Tavon Austin, not everyone can be, and no one should think that’s their only option. The school system as a whole needs to do a better job of preparing these bright minds for after graduation. The football field isn’t their only option, it’s just the only option that was presented to many of these young students.
After my freshman year of college, my family moved back to South Florida. Once arriving in Florida my dad began to train Division 1 football players again, as well as my younger brother’s teammates from his high school team. My sophomore year the pandemic occurred and for a year I was living at home in Florida with my family. Our days were spent on the football field. They say it takes ten thousand hours to perfect something, so we put our hours in every day. I quickly noticed a difference in the way the high schoolers in Florida train for football versus in Baltimore. In Florida, the high schoolers train similarly to how the professionals do, in Baltimore most of the athletes don’t know how to properly train. Florida has the best high school football in the nation and is considered a hotbed for Division 1 talent. In Baltimore, getting a Division 1 scholarship is like finding the Golden Ticket in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, in Florida it’s like picking up a Hershey Bar at the grocery store. Florida has the blueprint on how to get you to the NFL. Florida also has an abundance of opportunities to send their high schoolers to college free of charge outside of sports. When I was in middle school in Florida they took us on college tours across the state and showed us the different opportunities we could have in the future. This allowed me to think about the direction I wanted my life to go from an early age.
Preparation is key to success. At Oberlin College, we had a phenomenal track athlete; people would oftentimes say he was “built different." One day our track coach came to us and said he never wants to hear that the athlete was “built different” again because all he did was prepare more than us. If you have a goal, have a plan. Preparation can turn something that seems like Willy Wonka’s golden ticket into an everyday Hershey Bar. Preparation can make your dreams attainable.