Choosing hope

Jameel McClain/Baltimore Sun

When the chances to succeed are remote.  When the the easiest path is to become what society expects.  When giving up is what most people do.  Why do some choose to persevere? From where does the strength come to ignore the pull of the streets and keep fighting for a dream?

I’ve asked these questions twice this week and found different but powerful answers both times.

First on Tuesday I sat down with Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain for our Thanksgiving night Ravens Countdown TV show.  I helped keep generations of inner city youth from breaking a cycle of poverty.

Jameel though broke through.  A year of living at a Salvation Army shelter did not dampen his spirit, it forged it.  He told me the strength to persevere came from seeing exactly what he never wanted to become.  And seeing it day after day.  He had no specific role model, just an intense level of self motivitation.  “It’s not in my blood to quit!” he exclaimed. 

So when he went undrafted out of Syracuse McClain remained unfazed.  And when critics complain that he can’t cover a running back out of the back field, it’s no wonder he shrugs and rolls his eyes.  When you’ve metaphorically climbed Everest with no oxygen or guide, the impact of detractors is minimal.

Then this morning I received a call from Gregory Brown.  I met the 23 year old this summer at Herman “Tree” Harried’s basketball camp.  Greg was helping out as a counselor.  He told me briefly how he still hoped to play professionally, and I said “give me a call when you sign.”  Given his lack of basketball pedigree, I did not expect to hear back.

Brown played at Lake Clifton for two seasons, and then went to Anne Arundel Community College to continue his career.  But an injury nine games into the year ended his season, which led to academic failure.  

Greg Brown seemed out of chances.

But for three years he kept working on his game, putting his efforts to motivate his younger cousin Cleveland Melvin and his younger brother Quinton Harper.

That’s where the temptation to quit, to join life on the corner, came up short.

Brown told me this morning, as the oldest child in the family, he had to be the role model.

“I knew if I went out and sold drugs, or did drugs, they would to.”

So Gregory Brown focused on being their for his family.  And now as a father and husband, he kept working on his dream.  Brown kept playing, trying out for teams including a trip to Idaho and the NBDL tryouts. Of the 300 to work out 32 earned contracts.  He was ranked 54th.  No contract, but competing  well with players who had enjoyed full college careers bolstered his confidence.

And now, through hard work Gregory Brown’s dream has come true.  He signed with the Scranton  Wilkes-Barre Steamers of the PBL and leaves Thanksgiving Thursday for the start of a career.   

During this holiday season as we reflect on what is good in our lives, be thankful for those that ignore hardships and patronizing expectations to overcome and achieve.  And maybe the stories of Jameel McClain and Gregory Brown will help a kid out there who wants to break free, know that it can be done.


One Response

  1. Congratulations little cousin, it’s a blessing to see our young men achieve their dream, and inspire others. May God contihue to bless and keep you in his care.

    Love ya much
    Aleasa Faulkner (Lisa )

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