caesari

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  1. Editor's Note: After a summer hiatus, I will be looking to continue this series. On the docket are Kent St and Akron. If you would like a specific player chosen for your team, please PM me or post here. Otherwise, Miami (OH) will have an article after Akron. Chan Pease makes an acrobatic grab in warmups prior to their game vs. Central Michigan "They always told me, get a scholarship or go into the military. Either way, just get out." Chan Pease is stocky for a receiver. At 6 foot 1, 230 pounds, he looks more like a middle linebacker than anything. Something about him makes it seem like he's playing the wrong position. Normally a position reserved for the prima donnas, Chan Pease refuses to conform. He sits in front of me with his brow furrowed and a steely, determined glint in his eyes. "I listened. I got out. Took me longer than I expected, but I'm out." He is referring to his home of Independence, Kansas. It's a town of less than 10,000 people that sits in the southeast corner of the state, two hours from Wichita. His house was tucked into a small, middle class neighborhood, which disguised the turmoil Pease grew up in. His mother, Tracy Hicks, rented the house from his father. "It was a strange situation," she says. "His father wanted nothing to do with us, but felt obligated to help us because he was in the public eye. He knew that helping us helped him, and so he bought the house and made us pay rent secretly while he lived downtown." Chandler Pease was the mayor of Independence for three terms and on the city council for two. Before Chan was born, he was a sheriff, and had risen to relative fame when he rescued two children who had been kidnapped. "He was a man our town looked up to," explains Tracy. "But he had issues. He was a man, and he made mistakes. They caught up with him eventually, and it was hard to see if you were on the outside. I loved him for who he was, but who he was killed him." When pressed, Chan Pease changes the subject. "I don't talk about him much. He didn't want nothing to do with me, so now I return the favor. My mom is the one who raised me. Plain and simple. He just used me when it helped him campaigning, and other than that, I never saw him." When Pease was twelve, his father died in a car wreck. He had a BAC of .16, twice the legal limit, and cocaine was found in his console. The death rocked the community, and it rocked the young Pease too. He went from a straight A student to one struggling to pass, and in 7th grade he was held back due to poor performance. The trouble didn't stop there. By his senior year of high school, he'd already been arrested five times, for various issues ranging from possession of marijuana to assault and grand larceny. He'd been put on probation, he and his mother had moved five times, and he had been to a drug rehab facility. Through all of it, football was his constant. "When I wasn't suspended, I lead my team in receiving all four years of high school. I missed half the games my sophomore and junior years because of the trouble I was getting into, but I still was an All-District selection, and as a senior, I was All-State. I was damn good." Pease sprints towards the endzone against Bowling Green, 2019. The accolades came, but the scholarships didn't. Pease had a criminal record by the time he was 18 that already featured a felony charge, and it scared away most teams. The others were scared because he wasn't the prototypical superathlete many teams were looking for in an outside receiver. Still, Pease knew that football was his ticket out of Independence. "From the time he was old enough to understand, I tried to drill it into him that he had to get out." Tracy Hicks worked nights at the hospital as a desk clerk. Most of her money went to taking care of her son and paying off her own debts. "I was stuck, but I knew he had the ability to do what I'd never done: leave." His offers after his senior season were few and far between. Six NAIA schools came knocking and came away without his commitment. "I knew I was better than NAIA," Pease says simply when I asked him why he didn't take their offers. "I chose to stay in Independence and go to ICC, because I knew in the long run it would give me a better chance at getting out." He kept his head down while attending Independence Community College. In fact, his schedule was so rigid that many of his teammates barely knew him. He would practice, work out, go to class, and then go home to spend time with his mom before she had to leave for work. He didn't talk much when he was with his team, either. Some former teammates said they didn't know his first name until they saw it in the boxscores, he talked that little. Pease brushes that off. "I had a one track mind. Everything else was a distraction." After not receiving a single D1 offer out of high school despite being a three star recruit, Pease had 10 by the time his freshman year was done at ICC. He'd set Kansas records for yards and catches in a season, with 1474 on 101 grabs to go along with 8 touchdowns. Kansas and Colorado State were widely viewed as the most likely landing spots for him, with darkhorse contenders Oklahoma State and Missouri also seen as possible landing spots. When all was said and done, Pease shocked the recruiting world and chose Ball State. Despite not giving an interview on his choice at the time, his mother told the local newspaper that he "was serious about getting as far away from Independence as possible. If Oxford had offered him, he'd be on a plane to England." Pease corroborates this story now. "Ball State was in Indiana, and I'd never been there. I didn't even need to take a visit to know it's where I wanted to be. They came to my house once. I liked the coaching staff, and I liked that it wasn't Kansas. So off I went, and here I am." Pease stretches out for an acrobatic grab, the kind BSU fans have grown accustomed to. Unfortunately the transition wasn't easy for Pease, at least off the field. On the field, his talent was apparent. But Pease didn't see the field until Week 8 of 2018, his first season at BSU, thanks to some off the field issues that once again cropped up. The details remain murky to this day. Pease explains, "I wasn't focused. I thought I took football seriously, but I wasn't focused in the classroom or in practice. Coach suspended me two games at the beginning of the season for it, and told me if I didn't work my ass off I wouldn't be part of the program come the end of the season. Then I got back from my suspension and he had me listed as the 7th wide receiver on the depth chart. Didn't matter that I was a better receiver than them. I had to earn it." There was speculation at that point that Pease was going to transfer- that he had fallen out of favor with his coaching staff, didn't want to be at Ball State, and some reports went as far as to say he had already quit the team and was waiting for them to grant him a release. But that wasn't the case. Instead, Pease was at practice, and after a bye week and the suspension that made for juicy rumors, he was suited up for the next game. Pease clenches his jaw as he recalls the articles. "I'm not a quitter," he says simply. Weeks of slaving away in practice saw him rise up the list of receivers. By week 8, he was listed as number three. Unfortunately, Ball State ran 2 receiver sets almost exclusively and so Pease only saw two targets come his way. He caught both, including a touchdown. It was his first catch in Division 1. His mother remembers watching the play unfold. "I started crying when he caught it," she explains. "It wasn't a special catch; he was open in the endzone on a short route. But my son had caught a touchdown. My son. My son." She tears up as she recalls the moment and dabs at her eyes. "It was a proud moment for me. After all he'd fought through, he'd made it." Pease feels very differently about the moment. "I broke my route off the play before and nearly caused a turnover. That touchdown was me taking care of business. I had a long way to go still." He didn't look back. After a bye week, Pease was promoted to the first string, and made the most of it. He finished the game versus Western Michigan with 6 catches for 94 yards and another score. Despite only playing in four more games after that, he ended the season leading Ball State in every major receiving statistic. He did the same in 2019, when he had a full season as the number one option through the air, and now he is doing the same in 2020. Pease has established himself as one of the best receivers in the MAC and has his sights set on the NFL after the season. Even there, he knows he will have obstacles to overcome. Pease takes a knee in front of the student section and prays before every game. "I'm thankful for my blessings." "Honestly, I'm ready. I am ready to prove myself again. I've done it every level, every year- I have to prove that I'm good enough, or that my head is screwed on straight, or that I'm committed to the program. Whether the concerns are warranted or not, they're things I have to fight. And I get why you may have concerns. But I'll be damned if I prove those right." Scouts I have talked too have mixed feelings about Pease. One lists his relatively modest numbers in a weaker conference as cause for concern, but most point to the fact that he is, at best, an average athlete with off the field concerns that still haunt him. Some mention that he gets beat on 50/50 balls, while others see his lack of speed as a barrier to success at the next level. Pease doesn't buy it. He dismisses the scouting reports with a scoff and a promise: "I'm not the biggest or the fastest guy on the field. I can't out-jump every cornerback. But that doesn't matter- I'll beat you anyways."
  2. Winner goes bowling this week. I'm certainly feeling nervous. Best of luck to @SodapopSeth and the Buffalo bulls
  3. I love seeing RedHawks here the Flamethrower is exceeding even my highest hopes for this season, and as only a RS Sophomore, I'm excited to see how much he can improve! Congrats to the other winners as well. If it ain't MAC, it's whack!
  4. I'll have a small class but I think 4-5 4.0+ players. Not ideal, but it'll help us make a push these next couple seasons before I start losing a bunch of starters to graduation
  5. JFC I barely survived Bowling Green. I'll be sweating bullets every game from here on out.
  6. Cool. Struggled recruiting while I was away; back now fully and won't miss again.
  7. Halfway to last season's win total
  8. From now until the middle of July I'm going to be working at a summer camp. I'll still be on and able to gameplan/recruit, but I figured I'd post this so I'm not flagged for inactivity. I'll be back! Go Redhawks!

    1. SageBow

      SageBow

      Just keep in touch with your commissioner and visit the site when you can! Best of luck in these trying times away from the site!

  9. Editor's Note: Ball State will be next. Any MAC coach who has a specific player they'd like me to do, please post here or message me. I'll probably keep this pace of about 1 every 5-6 weeks until the season ends. If no one makes a request, Miami will be next. Ohio's Owen Walton scored the go ahead TD with 1:30 left in the MAC Championship Game. He had 148 yards and 2 TDs. "If you would have told me halfway through the season that we'd win the MAC, I would've believed you." I thought he had misspoke, so I tried to clarify. But he doubled down. "Yes. I would've believed you. I believed with every fiber of my being that we were good enough to go the distance. I kept believing, my team kept believing, and Coach Beeznik kept believing, and we did it. We won the MAC. That was our goal at the beginning of the season, and it never stopped being our goal." It is a lot easier now to look back at Ohio's season and consider it a success. A MAC championship, a decisive bowl victory, and a 9 win season surpassed any previous season for the Bobcats, and toppled most prognosticator's predictions from before the season. There was a point, however, where the season looked completely lost. The Bobcats beat Wyoming in their opening game by a score of 24-14. Walton did not even start, instead ceding the role to Preston Griggs. However, he got the chance to show his worth from then on. After three non-conference games against the likes of Arizona State, Houston, and Georgia State, along with a in conference thrashing at the hands of Akron, the Bobcats were at 1-4 and at the cellar of the MAC standings. "It was frustrating for sure. I'm a competitor. I hate losing. And I love Preston [Griggs], but not playing that first game sucked. I hated watching from the sidelines. So when I got the start the next few games, I was even more frustrated that we were struggling, because I felt like it was on me. My first four games as a starter were all ugly losses." I reminded him of his game against Houston, only his second start, when he put up 129 yards and 2 touchdowns on 25 carries. "That was an ugly loss, too. All losses are ugly." I didn't disagree. Walton emerges from a pack of Redhawk defenders on his way to a 2 yard score. Back up a week, before the Georgia State game. "We were all called a meeting. I think it was before the Georgia State game. Around that time, we were reeling, and I remember we didn't even have a head coach. Our coordinators were just splitting control of the the coaching duties, and so in the meeting they were tag teaming the gameplan for our game that Saturday. Then our AD comes in during the middle of it with some random guy we hadn't met. He wasn't a coach of ours, but he was wearing a Bobcats polo and some khaki shorts, and our AD said 'This is your new coach.' And I just kind of looked at him, like, is he gonna help us win? Because if so, I'm all in." The first week wasn't pretty. Coach Beeznik struggled with playcalling and acclimating to his new team, and the Bobcats couldn't seem to score. Despite holding Georgia State to only 17 points, Ohio lost by 5, due to their inability to find the endzone. "At that point some of the guys had quit. It was too frustrating to keep going. Coach called me and Stephen [Peters] in for a meeting the next week. Stephen hadn't even started a game yet. It was weird, I wasn't a captain or anything, he wasn't even a starter, but there we were, talking about how best to turn the season around." Walton didn't get any more specific than that. When pressed, he grinned. It was a cheeky, lopsided grin, the kind you give when you have a secret that you won't tell your friend simply because you like keeping it from them. "Hey, you know what happened next. I don't have to tell you," he said. The Ohio Bobcats lit the MAC on fire following the meeting. Peters was named starter just hours after they left Beeznik's office. Walton used the meeting as motivation; he was grateful that a new coach trusted him enough to have such a meeting with him. Their next game was a 34-7 drubbing of Central Michigan, in which Walton torched the Chippewas to the tune of 166 yards and 2 touchdowns. After that, he didn't slow down, as over the last six games of the season he had 10 touchdowns and 755 yards. They only lost one more time, to Western Michigan. A 1-4 season became a 7 win season, and a chance at the MAC championship. "I never lost hope," Walton reiterated. The Bobcats, though, were massive underdogs. Even the Bobcat faithful, who had received a jolt of life when the Bobcat season turned around so suddenly, overwhelmingly expected the magical story to come to an end. Toledo, their opponent in the championship, was the darling of the MAC and a 10 win team. Their offense was the most balanced and effective in the entire conference, while their vaunted defense featured more talent than any other team. "There was just something about that game. Going into it we had all the confidence in the world. Coach had a good gameplan for sure, but it wasn't anything special. We just refused to lose." Owen Walton during spring practice as the Bobcats prepare to defend their MAC title. At halftime, though, the Bobcats had been shutout. The defense had played well enough to keep the game at 10-0, but the first half results were not encouraging. "Stephen had thrown an interception," Walton explained, "on the only drive that anything was happening. I think I only had like 35 or 40 yards on 10 carries. For whatever reason, we weren't clicking." After receiving the ball to start the 3rd quarter, Preston Griggs ripped off a 65 yard return. The offense stalled after only one first down, a 17 yard rush by Walton, but it was enough. They came away with a 37 yard field goal and drew within one possession of the Rockets. Toledo answered back with a sustained drive of their own, capped with a field goal, and with just under 6 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, Walton and the offense took the field. The score was 13-3 in favor of Toledo. Walton had only had 12 carries up to that point, but he would be used heavily over the remaining quarter and a half. In just 3 minutes, Walton carried the ball 4 times for 46 yards, and Peters connected with wide receiver Dwayne Simpson on a crucial 3rd and 9 to push the Bobcats into the redzone for the first time all game. Walton capitalized with his first touchdown of the game, and the deficit closed to 13-10. "We were amped. I was amped. Our fans were amped. On the sideline, I told Coach, 'no way we lose this.' He was amped too, and slapped my helmet and all, but I think he knew I meant it. I think we were on the same page. We wanted it too bad to let it get away." The fourth quarter was dominated by the Bobcats, but they still couldn't score. Despite an interception on the ensuing Toledo drive, the Bobcats offense continued to stall, and with 5 minutes left in the game, they were forced to punt. "The pressure was on the defense to get a stop. I told them before they went out there, if we got a stop, our offense would score. But they had to get a stop." 2 minutes later, Robert Mahoney intercepted Toledo's Benjamin Hanson. The Bobcats' sideline went nuts. "I jumped on Preston's back. We were all yelling and screaming and swinging our towels over our heads. I saw Coach Beeznik sprint down the sideline with his fists in the air, but even in all that excitement, we were focused. We had the opportunity we wanted. It was up to us to capitalize." The Bobcats had 3:50 to drive 62 yards and score. On the first play, Owen Walton took a handoff to the left, planted his foot in the backfield, and cut back across the grain. He made a mad dash up the sideline, shedding two would-be tacklers, before finally being pushed out of bounds after a 28 yard scamper. The very next play he carried again, spinning away from a Toledo linebacker and powering through a safety as he ran 11 yards for another first down. A pass and a timeout later, and the Bobcats were in the redzone. "Coach told us we needed a touchdown. We couldn't be satisfied with a field goal, we wanted to win in regulation. He said that we had one more timeout, and if we had to, we would go for it on fourth down. He wanted to win right there." Thankfully for the Bobcats, it didn't come to that. Walton's number was called three straight times. The fist was a 6 yard counter. The second was a 9 yard trap play that saw him juke a linebacker out of his cleats. What happened next was captured on camera for the entire country to see. With only 2 yards to go, Walton looked at Stephen Peters and tapped his chest. His lips were easily readable: Give me the f****** ball. While mothers gasped in horror and fathers chuckled softly in homes all across the nation, Walton lined up behind Peters and got his wish. The play was a simple power, and Walton took two steps and leapt over the line. A bone crunching collision occurred in the air, sending Walton helicoptering over the goal line. "It would've hurt if I wasn't so damn excited," Walton explained with a laugh. The clock wound down, and Toledo was unable to score. Ohio had completed the unthinkable- from 1-4 to MAC champions, and they would go on to win their bowl game as well. "This season was incredible, for sure. I'll never forget it, but now we got to defend our title. There's a target on our back now." I asked him if he was ready for that kind of pressure. His response came immediately. "If I tell you we're gonna win the MAC again this year, would you believe me?"
  10. Thrashed The Saints Get Embarrassed In Atlanta Steve Alexander was the lone offensive bright spot in a 34-6 blowout.
  11. I put my notes section in there special for you, @deathcpo Thanks for catching the FS, adding in a moment
  12. 1st Team QB Benjamin Hanson 6-2 230 Sr Lincoln Trail College (Robinson, IL) 4.5 of 4.5 [Pocket] RB Owen Walton 5-6 219 Sr Morton College (Cicero, IL) 4.5 of 4.5 [Power] FB Jacob Holt 5-9 207 (So) Rich South (Richton Park, IL) 3.0 of 5.0 [Pass Blocking] WR Kenneth Harrison 6-1 153 (Jr) Holland Christian (Holland, MI) 4.0 of 4.0 [Speed] WR Chan Pease 6-1 230 Sr Independence Community College (Independence, KS) 4.5 of 4.5 [Target] TE Emory Johnson 6-7 255 (Sr) Springfield (SpringfieldIL) 5.0 of 5.0 [Receiving]OT Marc Allen 6-6 281 (Jr) Dutchess Community College (Poughkeepsie NY) 4.0 of 4.5 [Pass Blocking] OT Marcus Waterman 6-3 277 Sr Monroe Community College (Rochester, NY) 5.0 of 5.0 [Run Blocking] OG Derrick Briggs 6-4 285 (So) Dominican (Whitefish Bay, WI) 4.0 of 5.0 [Run Blocking] OG Jayden Grove 6-7 299 (Jr) Normal Community (Normal, IL) 4.0 of 4.0 [Pass Blocking] C D.J. Wilkinson 6-1 304 So Unionville (Square, PA) 4.0 of 5.0 [Run Blocking] Defense: DT Dwayne Montgomery 6-2 309 Sr Springfield (Holland, OH) 4.5 of 4.5 [2-Gap] DT Marlon Bailey 6-7 322 (Jr) Goshen (Goshen, OH) 5.0 of 5.0 [2-Gap] DE Nazir Tatum-Kimbrough 6-1 243 So Edgewood (Ashtabula, OH) 4.0 of 4.0 [Contain] DE Malachi McKnight 6-0 261 (Jr) Manistee (Manistee, MI) 4.0 of 4.0 [Contain] ILB Kareem Boykin 6-3 225 Jr Mercer County Community College (Trenton, NJ) 4.5 of 4.5 [Will] OLB Brandon Thomas 6-3 229 Jr St. Edward (Lakewood, OH) 5.0 of 5.0 [Blitz] OLB Donovan Pendleton 6-2 238 Jr Wonewoc-Center (Wonewoc, WI) 4.0 of 4.0 [Blitz] CB Sean Taylor 5-9 193 (Jr) Edgewood (Ashtabula ,OH) 5.0 of 5.0 [Man Coverage] CB A'Shawn Ellison 5-9 197 Sr Minnesota West CTC (Worthington, MN) 4.5 of 4.5 [Man Coverage] SS Thomas Gordon 5-10 193 Jr Housatonic Valley Regional (, CT) 4.0 of 4.0 [Zone Coverage]FS Donovan Jackson 5-11 200 Jr Warren Central (Indianapolis ,IN) 4.0 of 4.0 [Zone Coverage] Special Teams K Noah Cohen 6-3 173 Sr Chadron (Chadron, NE) 4.0 of 4.0 [Accuracy] P Mohamed Saylor 5-10 199 (So) Hotchkiss School (Lakeville, CT) 3.0 of 4.5 [Power] 2nd Team Offense: QB Zack Cera 5-10 221 (So) Flushing (Flushing, MI) 3.5 of 4.5 [Pocket] RB Gabe Ciamo 6-0 174 (So) Paoli (Paoli, IN) 5.0 of 5.0 [Speed] FB Riley Burdette 5-10 234 (Jr) F.J. Reitz (Evansville, IN) 4.0 of 4.0 [Run Blocking] WR Josh Whitt 6-2 189 (So) East (Cleveland ,OH) 3.5 of 4.0 [Speed] WR Justin Evans 5-11 168 (So) Gavilan College (Gilroy CA) 3.5 of 4.5 [Speed] TE Nate Linsley 6-1 218 (So) Limestone Community (Bartonville, IL) 3.0 of 5.0 [Blocking] OT Aiden Hammer 6-5 300 (Jr) Gibsonburg (Gibsonburg, OH) 4.0 of 4.5 [Pass Blocking] OT Marc Owens 6-1 320 Sr V.J. Andrew (Tinley Park, IL) 4.0 of 4.0 [Run Blocking] OG Maximillian Pope 6-2 277 (Jr) Pine Island (Pine Island, MN) 4.0 of 4.0 [Pass Blocking] OG Edward Galloway 6-6 321 Sr Leominster (Leominster, MA) 4.0 of 4.0 [Pass Blocking] C Jacob Alves 6-3 302 Sr Rochester CTC (Rochester, MN) 4.5 of 4.5 [Pass Blocking] Defense: DT Shane Horton 6-2 315 Sr Burlington County College (Pemberton, NJ) 4.0 of 4.0 [2-Gap] DE Donte Pennel 6-2 253 (Jr) Valley Forge (Parma Heights, OH) 4.0 of 4.0 [Contain] DE Michael McKinney 6-1 246 Sr Northfield (Northfield ,MN) 3.5 of 3.5 [Contain] ILB Calvin Blue 6-2 230 (Jr) Benilde-St. Margaret's (, MN) 4.0 of 4.0 [Mike] ILB Abdoul Hurt 6-1 216 (Jr) Sylvania Northview (Sylvania, OH) 4.0 of 4.0 [Mike] OLB Alexander Moffett 6-2 224 Fr Southside (Elmira NY) 3.0 of 4.5 [Coverage] OLB Myles Lindsay 6-1 235 Jr Notre Dame (Quincy, IL) 4.0 of 4.0 [Coverage] CB Jaylin McQueen 5-10 189 Jr Wheaton North (Wheaton ,IL) 4.0 of 4.0 [Man Coverage] CB Adam Haywood 6-0 196 Jr Brookhaven (Columbus, OH) 3.5 of 4.0 [Zone Coverage] SS Jadon Boykin 5-11 210 Sr Northridge (Johnstown, OH) 4.0 of 4.0 [Man Coverage] FS Zachary Dumas 6-1 199 Sr Madison Plains (London, OH) 4.0 of 4.0 [Man Coverage] Others Considered: Notes: Let me know how bad I did and who I missed!
  13. Oh, The Saints! Will They Ever March To A Win? Rookie Corey Davis fails to wrap up Bernard Taylor as the Saints fall to 0-4
  14. Editor's Note: Ohio is next. If you are a MAC team and have a specific player you'd like one of these articles written about, let me know here or in my inbox. Otherwise I'll choose. The article after Ohio will be from Miami OH unless I have another request. Haywood after breaking up a crucial 3rd down pass in the 2019 MAC Championship. A 1993 Toyota Camry is rarely called beautiful. In fact, it's rarely worth calling one a car anymore. But as Adam Haywood sits on its hood, he pats it with such pride you would think it just won a Best In Show ribbon. "I call her Gloria," he says. And then he does it. He calls her "beautiful." When you start her up, Gloria sputters and coughs like she has the nastiest cold you've ever seen. "Give her a minute," Haywood tells me, although he seems to be assuring himself. When he's satisfied that she's still alive, he points to the dash and gives a knowing chuckle. "two hundred thousand, three hundred and twelve miles. I've only had her for about 25,000 of those, but it feels like longer." Why the hell have I asked to examine a college football player's clunker? The answer to that question is tricky. You see, I don't care about the car; as reliable as ol' Gloria probably is- and Haywood has told me at least three times that she's "as steady as they come"- I am not here to learn about her. I'm here to learn about Haywood. A big part of who Haywood is lies in the metal frame of Gloria. In fact, at one point, every part of Haywood lay within. Gloria was more than a college car to Haywood. At one point, she had been his lifeline and his shelter. That 1993 Toyota Camry, with the big dent in the wheel well and the side mirror that was duct taped on, had once been home to a homeless Adam Haywood. When he had nowhere else to turn, he had Gloria. She's been the only constant in his life ever since. Haywood is known for his trash talk before each play. "I want to own real estate in every receiver's head," he explains. Haywood isn't one to make excuses. He owns up to everything that's happened to him with a ferocity usually reserved for a 1990s rapper. He revels in his past, even when many tell him to forget it. "It's part of who I am," he explains. "I'm a dog now because I was a pup who grew up. And I wouldn't be where I am today without life giving me its best shot." Despite his obvious athletic ability, Haywood didn't play football until he reached the 10th grade. He was too engrossed in other pursuits- at one time, he wanted to be a soccer star. Then he got into basketball. Then he got kicked off the basketball team for smoking cigarettes in the locker room. "It was my high school basketball coach who got me to play football. Not because I wanted to at the time, though. Just because he wouldn't let me play basketball no more. I hated him for it at first, but looking back... couldn't have been better for me." Haywood stepped on the field as a raw but talented player. In his sophomore year he was a major contributor to Brookhaven's semifinal run. They ran a Tampa 2 defense in which Haywood thrived. In the quarterfinal game he lead Brookhaven to a 59-35 win behind an Ohio single game record 5 interceptions. He continued to explode onto the scene, being listed among all major recruiting sites in the Top 100 and garnering interest from schools all throughout the Midwest. It was the spring of his junior year when Gloria entered his life. "I bought her with the money I earned bagging groceries," Haywood explains. "I hadn't had a car before that. Usually I rode my bike to school, or my grandma would drop me off. But she died that spring, so I knew I had to get myself a ride." His maternal grandmother, Loretta Kingston, was the woman who raised him. His mother died when he was just six years old, and his father was never around. "She was my saving grace. She was the only one who looked out for me. When she died, the only thing that kept me going was knowing I needed to make her proud." So he bought Gloria. The original intent was for it to get him to and from both school and work, and nothing more. But being a full time student, he couldn't devote enough time to his job to keep his grandmother's apartment, and he was evicted two months later. "I didn't tell nobody about it." Haywood's ferocity returns as he explains those months. "I'd shower in the locker room at school in the mornings before anyone got there, and at night, I'd drive to a park and camp out there. Usually, I ate only the school lunch and whatever I could afford during my lunch break at work. It wasn't the best times, but I got through it." Haywood stresses the idea of 'getting through it' throughout the course of our meeting. It seems to be his mantra. Just get through it, and everything will be alright on the other side. Haywood slept in his car from April of his junior year of high school until December of his senior year, when it got so cold he finally broke down and asked for help. "I didn't think I needed anyone at that point. My grandma had been my caretaker, and when she was gone, I thought I could get by on my own. And I did, for awhile. When my friends got suspicious, I played it cool and told them not to worry. I wasn't worried. Or at least I didn't think I was. I didn't realize how lonely and helpless I was until it got cold." His high school offensive coordinator and math teacher, Dee Fisher, was the man he went to for help. Fisher remembers the night well. "I woke up to a knock on my door at about midnight. School was just letting out for the Thanksgiving holiday, and football season was over, so I hadn't seen Adam in about a week. But there he was, a hoodie drawn tightly around his face, standing on my porch. I didn't know what was happening at first. We knew he'd been struggling, but we had no clue he was homeless. He was good about sneaking around and hiding it, I guess. But there was no doubt in my mind that we had to take him in for good when I saw him there. So from that night until he left for college, he stayed with us." Fisher became a surrogate father to Haywood over that next spring. When Haywood struggled in school, Fisher tutored him. When Haywood debated where to play ball, Fisher was there with counsel. "Coach Fisher helped me out a lot," Haywood admits with a shrug. "He's my guy. Only person I would die for, and that's a fact." Eventually, Signing Day rolled around and Haywood made his decision. Despite interest from much larger schools and being in Ohio State's backyard, Haywood decided to make the trek two hours north to Toledo to play for Coach Deathcpo. When asked about his decision by the local news station after his signing, Haywood shrugged. "I want to go somewhere and be the best ever. So I'm going to Toledo. I'm gonna start from day 1, and I'm gonna ball out from day 1. Watch me." Haywood celebrating an INT he returned for a TD. He has 3 pick 6s in just 2 years starting. While it seemed crazy, Haywood backed his words up by dominating as a freshman during summer camp. Although he was originally slated to only be the fourth corner on the team, he blew away his coaches with his natural ability even as he still was learning the intricacies of a college defense. "We recruited a guy who was one of the best zone corners in high school, and then asked him to play man coverage right out of the gate," Deathcpo explained. "The kid is a phenom." As he lays on the hood of his car now, hands behind his head and eyes closed, he smiles. "I can do it all," he says confidently. "I may look like a zone guy, but I ain't never played a down of zone coverage since I got here [to Toledo]. And that's a fact." Haywood took no time becoming the darling of Toledo's defense. As a true freshman, lining up against the best receivers on each team the Rockets faced, Haywood recorded 6 INTs. Whenever he went anywhere on campus, he wore a hoodie with the drawstrings pulled tight so that he wouldn't be pestered by giddy fans. He spent hours upon hours in the film room, dissecting tape with his position coach, and the rest of the time he spent in his dorm, playing NBA 2k19 and avoiding the spotlight. The same thing happened in 2019. 6 more interceptions, and still more recognition. Receivers recount tales of his legendary trash-talk. Kenneth Harrison, the Miami Redhawks star receiver, shudders as he thinks back to his only meeting with Haywood. "I was a redshirt freshman, and the man broke me. He was a true freshman who held me to zero catches. I think his hands got on more throws that day than mine did. And before every play, he would give me a grin and ask me when I was gonna make it hard for him. I never did." As such a vocal player on the field, a casual fan may expect Haywood to eat up the relative fame that came with being one of the stars of a D1 football program, but it was the opposite. Haywood continued to avoid being noticed around the campus, and stuck to the football facilities for most of every day, whether in season or out of season. When I pressed him about it, he waved me off nonchalantly. "I'm not an ass. I believe I'm the best, but I let my results speak for themselves. I don't need everybody constantly telling me how great I am to keep me going. I never had that growing up, and look where I am. Why would I change that?" He pauses, then expands, to make sure that I know that he's serious. "And I do believe I'm the best. Any cornerback who doesn't believe that about themselves isn't gonna last long." Throughout his first two years in college, Gloria has remained a fixture in his life. While he has a bed in the football dorms now, he still on occasion naps in her backseat after practices. She keeps him grounded, even as the hype surrounding him continues to build. As he prepares to enter his junior season, he's one of the leaders of the most talented team in the MAC, and Deathcpo has left no doubt about that. Haywood's success will directly affect the Rockets' season. "I like the pressure. I like being uncomfortable. Nothing big ever comes from being comfortable. I hate working out, lifting weights and all that, but I do it because that's how I get ahead. That's how I become the best. Complacency don't have no place in my life." Haywood slides off the hood of his car and walks around back. He pops the trunk and grabs a sweater, pulls it over his head, and then points at the pile of clothes he pulled it from. "That was my closet at one point. My bedroom was the seats. I didn't get to where I am because life treated me right." I asked him if he harbored resentment towards life, due to everything it had thrown at him. He considered the question for awhile. "Nah, I got football. I play angry. But off the field, I got good people around me and I want to make them proud. I don't have the time or the energy to be constantly angry. I was raised better than that." He pats Gloria's roof, then smiles at her like you might imagine a kid smiles at his crush at prom. It was a big, childlike smile. "My grandma gets a lot of the credit for raising me. She was my rock. But when she was gone, all I had was Gloria. And she became my rock." I put my things away, shook Haywood's hand, and thanked him for his time. I was thinking about the interview, trying to frame this story about a football player that didn't have much to do with football. It was a curious predicament, but as I turned away, he called my name and I turned back to see him climbing in the door, the grin still plastered on his face. Then he said it. "Isn't she beautiful?" I couldn't help but agree.