Precinct 333

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Doing The Right Thing

I'm not particularly familiar with Larry Foote of the Pittsburgh Steelers. I don't know anything about his play on the field. But I do know something about Larry Foote the man and father, and I am impressed by what I know. Many males (I won't call them men), especially professional athletes, attempt to avoid the responsibility of being a father.

For years, Larry Foote had heard rumors about a kid in Detroit who looked like him. He always laughed them off. Then a friend called to say that a woman wanted to talk to him.

She said Larry was the father of her 8-year-old son, Trey-veion.

Could this really be his kid? Larry was a 15-year-old at Pershing High in Detroit when Trey was born. He'd had a brief relationship with the boy's mother, Khalila Hammond.

When Larry got that phone call, he could have said it was impossible. Hung up. Blocked it out of his mind. He had not been contacted for eight years, and then all he got was one phone call from a mutual friend. There was no lawsuit, no demand of child-support payments.

But this was Larry Foote's one-minute test, and he passed. He said he would take a paternity test, and he wanted to meet the kid who might be his son.

Foote called his fiancée, Flint TV reporter Tara Edwards.

"He said, 'Remember when they were joking there is a kid out there that looks like me?' " Edwards recalled. "Right away, we talked about it before he even got the test back. He said, 'If he's mine, then I want him.' There was no dodging the issue. He wanted to raise him."

Eventually, Foote took the paternity test, but he needed it about as much as an owl needs glasses.

"Once I saw the boy," he said, "I pretty much knew."

Sunday afternoon, Foote will start for the Steelers against New England for a berth in the Super Bowl. Trey will be in the stands at Heinz Field. And when the game ends, they will head home together.

Granted, it would have been a better thing if Larry had kept his pants on at age 15. But having made that bad choice, he has done right by his son. Sadly, that is all too rare. I've got students who don't have contact with their fathers. I had one whose father chose jail over paying child support. Another student, after losing his mother last spring, told me that he had no idea who his father was.

But what moves me is his statement at the end of the article.

"I was one of the few in my neighborhood growing up that had a father that was in my life. A lot of my buddies growing up, they didn't even know their fathers -- they didn't know who they were. My father didn't live with me, but every weekend, me and my father were close. That's how I grew up.

"My uncles that I was close with, they were married and had kids. That's the only way I knew.

"I had to get my son and be a part of his life. My uncle Skip, him and his wife, they weren't fortunate enough to have kids. I couldn't turn back me having a boy, having a son. A lot of people in this world can't have kids.

"I knew it was a blessing."

I know that heartbreak all too well. It may be the hardest thing that my wife and I have had to accept -- harder than her illness. It's good to see this young man recognize the blessing of a child, and to accept that blessing in his life.


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