By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. Thursday begins (for millions of sports fans) the all-consuming NFL draft. In the back of my rapidly aging brain, this reminded me of a story we ran a while back that is both football-related and profoundly uplifting. I hope you agree.
My thanks to a NRL News Today reader who forwarded me the story, “Temple wideout owes it all to his mom.” (For non-football types, a wideout is a pass receiver.) The Philadelphia Daily News’s Mike Kern did a superb job profiling Temple football player Khalif Herbin and his mother, Lynda Jones.
“KHALIF HERBIN’S story is remarkable. In large part because it almost never became a story at all.”
Back in 1994, Jones received a long-distance call from Denise Herbin, a cousin, a woman she had never been close to.
“The voice sounded frantic, saying she was going to have an abortion. So Jones immediately drove from North Jersey to South Carolina. Then the two headed back to Montclair. Three weeks later, Herbin gave birth to twins. The girl died. The boy weighed 4 pounds. Herbin told Jones she didn’t want him. Jones, who was 30, took the baby home with her.
“’I think it was meant to be,’ she said.”
The story would have been immensely moving if, having told of how Jones rescued Khalif from abortion, Kern then focused only on the challenges Jones faced, the courage she demonstrated. Khalif was not the only Herbin child Jones adopted. She lovingly brought two more home, had a child of her own, but also endured an abusive relationship.
It was not until much later in life, after retiring on disability and marrying, that her life assumed “normalcy.”
But a very important part of the story is how Jones raised Khalif. Not just to be the very decent human being everyone says he is. Even though the family has not seen or heard from Denise Herbin for more than 15 years, Jones raised him in a manner that every November he celebrates his biological mother’s birthday.
“People wonder why I would do that for someone who didn’t want me,” Khalif explained to Kern. “My mom encouraged that when I was a kid. [Denise Herbin] could have got an abortion. She was smart enough to say, ‘I’m going to give him to the right person.’ ”
He added, “Mom was always honest with me. She wasn’t afraid to tell me my story.”
Later in the story Khalif tells Kern “I used to ask God, ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ What happens is what happens. There’s a lot of people who would trade places with me. It could have been so much worse. I know people who aren’t going to make it.”
Kern’s conclusion is too powerful to paraphrase. He quotes Khalif, who never knew his father, who said
“’Most important, I want to be a great parent,’ said Khalif, a social work major who enjoys drawing and writing poetry. ‘I don’t want to be that father who’s not there. What you learn when you get to see things at a young age, that builds you up to be strong. Mentally I feel like I’m light-years ahead of everyone else. It made me passionate, it made me emotional. Who I am and what I am, that came from my mother. She knows what I’m going to do before I do it.
“’I don’t ever want her worrying about me. I’m always telling her I’m going to be successful. I don’t want to disappoint her. I’m an extension of her. God has given me a gift. I’d be crazy to waste it. One of my biggest hopes is that I’ll be able to walk into my old high school gym and church and talk about everything I’ve been through to motivate them . . .
“’She’s not looking for me to repay her. She’s the most selfless person you’ll ever meet. She doesn’t like to cry in front of us, but she’s cried a few times. That’s what keeps me going, when I want to quit. I promise you that when I get older, she’s going to get some stuff from me. I just want her to be happy.’”