Coming back to Chicago was something that was difficult for me to swallow. I had plenty of friends that went to college within the area so I knew there was going to be a lot of questions upon my return. The last thing I wanted was constantly be reminded not only of my failures as a football player, but also throwing away the friendships I had made throughout my time in West Virginia.
All throughout my 20 months at West Virginia, I felt the need to represent my hometown as somewhere I was proud to be from. I was, after all, the only member of the football team from Illinois, let alone Chicago. I always was compelled to boast about how much open mindedness and variety there was relative to West Virginia. When I had first left to go to school I was slightly homesick due to the change in culture, but once I had gotten settled back at home it became the complete opposite. I felt as if West Virginia had become more compatible with my life as I grew older, even in such a short period of time.
Regardless if I felt truly happy or not, I knew I would be away from the South Side in a mere number of months. That was my additional motivation. I had gone back to making all of the phone calls and sending all the emails I possibly could to the surrounding big schools. Out of all the schools, the University of Cincinnati was the most interested. I immediately became set on attending.
As the months went by, I continued to gain weight. It was easy for me due to the fact that I was surrounded by my favorite foods, and they were all within easy access as opposed to school in West Virginia. Friends and family continuously asked me about my health. Every single comment about my weight bothered me, but I knew becoming a star athlete would be worth it. That would be my way of silencing all of the critics.
I was raised by parents of middle class on the South Side. My father especially felt the need to persistently remind me of the "gap" in reality from South Siders and Suburbanites. Due to the location of most high schools in the Chicagoland area, there was often an intermingling of both city and suburban kids. Although the distance between us is incredibly close, there is a fair difference in values. It just so happened that my high school girlfriend was from the suburbs.
As I had previously mentioned, becoming a star athlete was a way of proving my high school coach, some of my friends, and all the other critics wrong. I was also a way to prove my girlfriend's father wrong. We never really saw eye to eye. Not only was there was my lack of respect for authority, but I had always felt that his impression of kids from my area was that they lacked any chance of having a future.
To be honest I was completed infatuated with this girl all throughout my teen years. So much in fact, that I was determined to become a dentist because it was her idea of me becoming a "successful" individual, hence my decision to pursue a Biology my freshman year in college...even though I absolutely despised it. That fact that we were passionate about different things made the relationship even more difficult to maintain. As most high school relationships, things faded shortly after we were settled in at different colleges, given that they were 500+ miles away. She wanted to pursue a life of enjoying the college experience where as I became less sociable as I grew older.
Just around the time of my return home, we had gotten back in touch with each other. I received a text out of the blue during my visit to Cincinnati. I made the visit up to the school to solidify my place on the team. My Dad and I made the drive up the day before and stayed in a hotel with intentions of watching the team's spring practice the next day.
As the morning came around, I went into the hotel lobby and nervously ate my absurdly sized breakfast. I knew that this was more than likely my last chance to achieve my goal of becoming a big time college football player. The life of a college athlete is limited. You either make it or you don't. I had already seen plenty of players on West Virginia who were just on the team, passing time as they waited to graduate, having only seen the field a handful of times. I left the hotel dressed in all black, anxiously awaiting what was in store for me.