To the CYPSQUAD Kids,
When I was young, like you, I was considered an at-risk youth. My family struggled to the point where there were nights that I went to bed hungry. But even though we didn’t have a lot of money or even a lot of food, I didn’t worry and I don’t want you to worry either.
There is a scripture in the bible that says, “Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?”
The idea is that there are so many birds in this world and they don’t know where they will get their food, but thanks to God they eat just fine. If they are able to get their next meal, God will make sure we get ours as well.
So instead of allowing your circumstance to get you down, focus your energy on choosing right over wrong and let God take care of the rest. If you stress you won’t be able to enjoy the moments of life. And I want all of us to enjoy our journeys, even if, like mine, they come with some serious challenges.
My parents are immigrants from Haiti. They came here for the same reason most other immigrants come here – for a better life.
However, early on in my childhood we had it rough. We moved from place to place. I had a seven-person family: five kids and my parents. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment together. The lights often turned off. We lived in homes that were infested with roaches. We would heat water up on the stove just so we could take a warm shower.
My dad was a taxi driver. When I was about nine or ten my mom became a certified nursing assistant. That’s when we became more stable. My mom mostly supported us and we moved into a house in North Miami Beach. Watching my mom work as hard as she did to improve our family’s situation taught me a valuable lesson at a young age – women are extremely strong people.
Even though we were more stable, when I entered my teen years we still lived in a tough area. I looked around and I knew I wanted to do better than what I saw in my neighborhood.
Instead of following the lead of the people around me, I said to myself, “I don’t want to be like this. I want to do something different.”
This is the time in my life where recognizing right and wrong became critical. I saw a lot of drugs. I saw people go to jail because of drugs. So, as a teenager, I stayed away from drugs entirely. At the same time I found my love for sports. It was perfect timing because while other kids got in trouble I was preoccupied with practice.
I didn’t start or get much playing time until my senior year of high school but I played because I loved football. My senior year I began to compete with a purpose. I wanted a college scholarship. Western Michigan and Florida International University (FIU) both offered me full rides. I chose FIU.
I said to myself, “I don’t want to be like this. I want to do something different.”.
I was a little discouraged that I didn’t get attention from any big-time programs or more schools but I showed up to FIU ready to work. My tireless work ethic immediately separated me from the rest of my team as well as my competition. But it wasn’t until my senior year when I went to the Senior Bowl that I really caught the attention of NFL scouts. I told myself I was going to go out there and be the best defensive back in the entire game. That’s what happened. I won Most Valuable Defensive Back.
My draft stock skyrocketed and the Jacksonville Jaguars chose me with the first pick of the second round. It was an amazing moment for both me and my family. So far I have been in the NFL for six seasons: four with the Jaguars and two with the Tennessee Titans.
I started my foundation, CYPSQUAD At-Risk Youth Foundation because I know you can do well in life, too. I host camps so you have the chance to fall in love with sports as I did. I raise money to try and find ways to ease the financial burdens in your life. I want to give you more opportunities to achieve and to find your passion in life. As someone who made it, helping you is my responsibility and I am happy to do it.
I want you to recognize what is right and what is wrong. When you see people going to jail or getting involved with drugs don’t let that be you. You may have to make choices different than your friends or the people around you. Lean on sports or any organized activity that you enjoy. Be disciplined and be committed to something productive. Look for mentors in the right places and make real and authentic friendships that will last forever.
Right now I can see how my past impacts my mindset, as I am a free agent, waiting for a team to call and sign me. The Titans cut me in March after I tore my ACL last year in training camp. Whether I play football for five more years or if the last time I played football is when I tore my ACL, I believe my story is already written and what’s for me is what’s for me. So my focus is on continuing to make the right decisions: working out, helping you and staying ready for whatever is next.
Our past or even our present, as hard as it may be, prepares us for our next challenge and this one is mine.
While I wait to see what’s next for my future, I already know what I want for your future. I want you to be more successful than I am. I want you to do better than I have done so far. I know you have the strength and ability to be great, whether it’s on the football field or any other arena in life. When you do reach your goals and find the success you are right now dreaming about, I want you to go back to inspire someone else the same way I am doing for you.
If you can steer away from the wrong and teach others to do the same, we will not only get the most out of our own lives, but help lead our communities to live the right way.
Just always remember, I believe in you.
Written with Lauren Brill
About the author:
I am a seven-year NFL veteran from south Florida. After spending time with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans, I am currently a free agent.
About the sponsor and the charity:
Bentley Custom Solutions, a custom home remodeling company in South Florida, is donating $50 dollars to the CYPSQUAD ARY Foundation in honor of the first 50 shares. The foundation holds events that entertain, motivate, and raise funds to sponsor underprivileged youth. Please report, react and give back and help change the world. DONATE HERE!
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[…] enough, in the email was your letter to your late father, former NBA basketball star Anthony Mason, talking about your struggles after his death. You wrote […]
Sweet Lauren, I agree completely with the promise that Brian asked you to make. Frankly, it is the only way that I know to love; totally, completely, wholly and unconditionally. You deserve nothing less, nor does your future love.
Wow. What a truly moving and powerful story. We often take for granted the small gifts we give each other just by being present. I'm sad for the heartache. I'm glad you stayed and became. Who knows what little girl or boy will be attributing their life's purpose to some kindness you shared. Peace and Sunshine
You’re welcome Lauren looking forward to all the future stories :)
Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.
Thank you Tony. I appreciate all your support.
I’m sorry to hear about Brian but he was right you are too beautiful to not receive roses Lauren:)
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Thanks for this! So what movie set did you get on?
So nice Roger <3
Pat, Your letter touched me in a very profound way. It left me in tears in the middle of my work day. It made me want to share something with you. On a July morning in 2007 a police officer answered a 911 call I had made when my Mother went into cardiac arrest. Between that officer, my best friend and the fire fighters who showed up minutes later they were able to restart her heart, however at the hospital she passed away an hour later. At the end of his shift that officer stopped by my home to check on the situation and cried when I told him the unfortunate news I received only 4 hours prior. He tried to apologize to me. I looked at the anguish in his eyes and asked him directly what for? He described the ways he felt sorry. What I want to leave you with was my reply to him. I told him he had nothing to be sorry for because he answered the call in what was the darkest moment in my life. I told him that he was a hero regardless because it takes a special person to answer calls like that. You are a hero to people Pat. No one can ever take that away from you. I understand the process you're going through as I've been there myself and like you I still struggle with it when no one is looking. You aren't alone in this. I hope your healing process continues on and you can regain the happiness in this beautiful life. You'll always be a hero to those people, because you were there when the call came Best wishes Roger Chamberlain
Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.