“This is a snapshot of what happens to youth sports in the inner city,” she said. “There’s a lot of money and greed. Some of these coaches are chasing the same dreams as the kids. That being said, kids in the inner city don’t have access to that training. When someone comes along and says I’m going to take you out of the Bronx, you can play at a Division I school, these kids jump at it. It can not only change their life, but their family’s life.”
Isiah Miller, a 5-foot-8 outside linebacker and defensive end, said he would go to a junior college in the spring, join the track team and shed 25 pounds to hit his ideal weight of 225 pounds. He was confident he would be noticed by colleges.
Jaquan Baxter, 22, who played in a Christians of Faith game the day after he arrived in Columbus, is done with football, done with school. He delivers for Amazon. “I’m job motivated now,” he said, outside the door of his fifth-floor walk-up apartment, with each landing cluttered with unwanted appliances — a refrigerator, a stove, a radiator. “Everything I put on the field, I want to put into work. I love money and I love fly clothes.”
Nobody is further from the big dreams shared on that FaceTime call than Rodney Atkins.
On Wednesday, as he sat on the bed in his otherwise empty room in the psychiatric ward at Jacobi Medical Center, he considered his future. He said he had taken too much of his medication and was admitted involuntarily. His hair and beard, once neatly groomed, had become unruly. His prescribed medication sometimes left him foggy and lethargic.
Atkins checked a band on his wrist to remember the date he was admitted: Nov. 28.
Until then, he had been occupied fixing up the house that belonged to his grandmother, who died just as he returned from Columbus two years ago. He is renting out two bedrooms to make money and eats most of his meals at the corner deli. “In my head, as long as I have three meals and a bed, then I’m good,” he said.
Atkins hopes to regain the trust of his former neighborhood teammates, who are wary of him for standing by Johnson after all the unfulfilled promises. A lot, Atkins said, has been on his shoulders. He has not given up on football and school.
Does he regret going to Columbus?
“I would say no,” he said. “It’s an experience. You can always take pros and cons out of everything. I still think it’s a good opportunity, a good vision. But you need money to make the dream work, and there was a lack of.”