Mothers Essential To Recent Mountaineer Graduates
MORGANTOWN — This was one of the most wonderful sports weekends of any year, the confluence of West Virginia’s graduation day with Mother’s Day.
Just as the Monongahela and the Allegheny join into the Ohio River in Pittsburgh, so, too, on this weekend do we look into maybe the most overlooked connection in the world of sports.
When we think of athletic success, we think of fathers and sons, out in the back yard, playing catch or going to sporting events together. Even with female athletes, often the dominant parent in the development is thought to be the father, although that is changing now that it has become so much acceptable to have women excel in the arena of sports and pass along their knowledge to their daughters … and sons.
Two athletes who graduated this weekend from WVU drive home the point we are trying to make, former football player Bruce Irvin, who survived an amazingly difficult journey through life to reach this point, and basketball star Jevon Carter, who now tries to reach the professional success that Irvin has enjoyed.
That Irvin lived through his ordeal is almost as surprising as him reaching the goal of gaining a college degree and he has graciously shared his story with the world over the past year.
But the smile on his face when he obtained his sociology degree this weekend screamed out all the emotions that had boiled inside him or so long.
Living in Atlanta, he was headed down a street filled with drugs and crime, caught up on a one-way freeway headed toward jail with no exits, except that he caught a break … and his mother had a lot to do with it.
His stepfather threw him out of the house at a time when he reached critical mass, which led to him spending a few days in the DeKalb County jail with his mom believing it might be best if he were taught just what that side of life was like and failed to bail him out.
He wound up upon his release keeping really bad company until one day, after going out for a few minutes, he returned to find police everywhere, raiding the house in which he was living.
“That was when I called my mom,” he wrote in an article in The Players Tribune.
“I had kept in contact with her since she and my stepdad kicked me out of the house. She would sneak behind my stepdad’s back and come by the trap house to check on me. I remember the guys would have drugs out, doing deals or whatever, and I would have to tell them, ‘Yo, stop what y’all are doin’ and clean up. My mom’s about to come!’
“I was so freaked out after that raid that I called her and told her everything that had happened, and she said, ‘Just come home. We’ll figure this out.’
“And for the first time since I got kicked out a year and a half earlier, I went home.”
This, though, wasn’t a fairy tale and even though Irvin now was taking steps to straighten out his life at a school for troubled kids, the school closed, leaving him out on the streets again.
He admits he was at rock bottom then, when a stranger named Chad Allen, whom he terms his “guardian angel,” came along and took a strong interest in him.
“The first thing he did was call my mom,” Irvin wrote. “He told her what was happening, who he was and that she didn’t have to come get me – he was going to let me stay at his house that night. The next day, he took me home, met my mom and he told her that he was going to let me live with him. He was gonna help me turn my life around.”
She climbed on board with this and Irvin would up going to California to play junior college ball and then be recruited by WVU.
One of the biggest moments was what was really a minor game in the scheme of things, WVU vs. Coastal Carolina.
“That first time my mom came to see me play at WVU … man, that was a big moment. I remember we played Coastal Carolina. My mom hadn’t seen me play since I was in the ninth grade. She was just really happy because I had overcome so much,” he said.
Now she has seen him play in college and in the Super Bowl and graduate from college.
Carter’s tale was somewhat more traditional as he grew up in Maywood, Ill., with his mother, Cynthia Johnson, and his dad, Leroy Carter.
The Carters are a strong family, and the tie between Jevon and his mother is a lasting bond.
Indeed, two years back, when Carter received some criticism for his play in the late seconds of the NCAA loss to Gonzaga, his mother took to social media to give everyone a glimpse inside the man she calls ‘Von.
“LISTEN UP MOUNTAINEERS! So that you all have a clear understanding as to why I would cuss you from your birth to your death for ever criticizing Jevon for a bad play, a bad shot or a whole bad game, it’s not because he’s my son and it’s not because I think he’s perfect … it’s because I don’t know of any other Mountaineer basketball player that works as consistently hard as he does NO MATTER WHAT!
“I just hung up the phone with him and when I called he had just woke up. Of course, they are all physically and mentally exhausted … usually this time of night he will talk to me for a long time … So, when he said, ‘Ma, I’ll call you tomorrow. I’m getting ready to go” … I was shocked, I got happy for him, I thought he was getting ready to hang with the fellas and loosen up .… I started teasing him, and he said ‘I’M GOING TO THE GYM TO SHOOT AROUND’ … Because I’m a mom, I said, ‘Von, why won’t you let your body & legs rest awhile? Take a break. You don’t have a game tomorrow.’
“His reply, ‘Gonzaga does’ … ‘Be careful son, it’s after 1 a.m. I’ll talk to you tomorrow. I love you.’ ‘I love you too, Ma.’”
She knew her kid, admired what he had become and the way he had approached his life, and now she admires something else about him … a college degree that he was awarded over Mother’s Day weekend.