Hope for the Future

LOS ANGELES, CA—We read their stories on the wire every day. We look at the new batch of kids entering the professional sports domain and we hope that these young men are the ones we can tell our kids about when we're talking about… LOS ANGELES, CA—We read their stories on the wire every day. We look at the new batch of kids entering the professional sports domain and we hope that these young men are the ones we can tell our kids about when we're talking about the positives of the sports game.

The smart parents won't make these young guys role models because no one knows what the future holds for any of us – but having no insight in the future should not mean that we have no hope for the future. At the Los Angeles Coliseum Saturday, standing underneath sun and clouds, I got a whole bunch of hope. Hope that a group of talented young men will do their part not to add more chinks in the fragile entity known as the black athlete.

The National Football League Players Association teamed up with Reebok to host the NFL Players Rookie Premiere this past weekend, and young men from a wide array of universities and cities they called home were assembled to take photographs of many sorts at the home of USC football.

There was Tatum Bell, who wanted to get the open running back spot vacated by Clinton Portis in Denver. He asked for #7, not knowing what kind of flak that would cause, and he said John Elway told him that if he ran for 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns, then he could wear #7. He knew that was in jest, but he also knew that his situation of getting some serious playing time in
Denver was, well, serious.

Keary Colbert was once again walking on the field he just won a national championship playing on throughout the season. He was proud to be making his first true professional appearance on the grounds he called home for a stellar collegiate career. He was humbled by the opportunity to be playing professional football, and like most of the young men there Saturday, he just felt blessed to get the chance.

As humble as Colbert and others were, DeAngelo Hall and Kellen Winslow were not.

Hall is a rookie cornerback for the Atlanta Falcons, who will be wearing #21. He danced to every song by himself in the middle of the field, and expressed a prime time enthusiasm and excitement that another Falcon who wore #21 did several years ago.

Winslow, a 180-degree turn from his Hall of Fame father, Kellen, Sr., with his tattoos and language that contained mostly slang, flexed his muscles every chance he got, showed a slight contempt for some of those who interviewed him (we were both 'Canes, so I got over), and hung out with, technically, nobody. But his swagger showed that he was ready to take this new league of his over, or get engulfed by it in a huge struggle.

Beauty came in the guise of Cincinnati Bengals running back Chris Perry, whose mother, Irene, was in the house along with him. Perry said that his mother was his confidant and was the only one he could really trust because "she'd always been there." She walked around the field and tried to get everyone to sign these glossy photos her son received from the league. The writers that attended got the same photos, too, but our sons were not out in the field taking action shots, and her hunt for autographs was influenced by pure love.

Big Ben Troupe, new tight end for the Tennessee Titans was smiling mightily, Michael Clayton talked with me as we laughed heartily, and was on his back a few times after some things made him laugh.

Larry Fitzgerald spent time talking to kids, and playing catch with some of the volunteers at the event.

St. Louis Rams running back Stephen Jackson was re-introduced to relatives who knew him as a baby, but he couldn't return the sentiment of recollection towards.

Then there was Devard Darling. His story is the one that brings the most compassion.

Darling and his twin brother, Devaughn came to the United States when they were both 12 years old, and their love for the game helped them to get scholarships to Florida

May 24, 2004
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