August 4, 1991
I had waited for this day for a long time! I couldn't believe it was finally here. I remember it like it was yesterday. Two months prior to this day, I had graduated from high school. But this day had come...the day that I was to leave to go off to college.
Some people would be nervous or anxious about leaving home. Not me. I had mentally prepared myself for this day for a long time. My school, South Carolina State University, was located just an hour and a half away. Not too far away from home...but not too close either. Graduating from high school wasn't a big deal for me. As much I loved my days at Wilson High School, I wasn't sad to be leaving. College was the place that I had dreamed of being. When I watched "A Different World" on tv, I envisioned my college experience being just like that. It wasn't far from it. LOL. Nevertheless, I was eagerly anticipating college. I had my concerns about leaving my mom and my brother, who was entering his sophomore year at Wilson. I knew he'd be fine. I knew mom would be fine. She had prepared me and we both knew it. My only other concern was my crew. We had become so close over the years. We all were headed to different colleges. Two of my other boys were headed to the military. I had my cousin, Eric, with me at South Carolina State and my boy JFresh was next door at Claflin University. I wanted the crew to remain as close as we had always been. I wasn't sure how it was gonna happen. There was no such thing as email nor free long distance calls. I also had football. I knew that it would keep me more than busy.
Back to that day, I remember going to church then coming home and eating dinner. I remember the mood in the house was very weird. We didn't say much at dinner. I packed the van and my mom was going to drive me to school. My brother, Damon, didn't come. I remember walking out of my room and down the hall to his room. I was going to tell him goodbye. Deep down, I was dreading that walk. It seemed like it took me forever just to take those few steps. I walked in his room and he had his head down. This would be the first time that we would be apart. We had endured our parents messy divorce together. He lifted his head and I could see tears in his eyes. My eyes welled up. I gave him a huge and I gave him a quick pep talk that any big brother would. I told him he'd be ok. I reassured him that I was just a phone call away. I walked down the stairs and jumped in the van with my mom. That was the last day that I lived in my mom's house...last time that I lived in my hometown, Florence, SC...last time in the nest. It was time for me to go.
Although Eric was going to be a freshman like me, he didn't have to come to school for another 3 wks. I was on campus early because of football camp as we were preparing for the upcoming season. When I got on campus, I didn't know anybody. There were no other students on campus...just the football team. There is a HUGE difference between high school football and college football. I found that out very quick. For the first time, there were players REALLY better than me. Doubtful thoughts crept in. I was beginning to feel a little homesick. I remember wondering out loud if I was cut out for college football. I called my parents. Two phone calls...one common theme...you can do anything that you want but you have to work at it. And they were right. By the time school started, the homesick feelings left. I learned that I would be red-shirted (meaning I could practice but couldn't play in the games until the next year). It gave me a chance to get stronger and better. I needed that.
They say you learn more between birth and the age of 6 than you learn for the rest of your life. Well, I think I learned more during my freshman year of college than you could learn in two lifetimes. I learned...how to have productive days on very little sleep...how to party...about people and their ways...about the game that I fell in love with...about family...about women...about love...and so much more. I thought I knew it all before August 4th...but I knew very little.
More importantly, I found me and I was slowly becoming the man that I was raised and groomed to be.