It’s been a couple days now since you have passed and all I can remember is the good times. I wish I could tell you how special you were, but as always, being in my business mind, I must keep a straight face and stay fair across the board with all the athletes. The truth is you were one of a kind; you were the first star of Born To Compete.
The first time I truly met you was when your Ben Hill team played the Central Dekalb Jaguars. Besides Jeremiah Kirkland and Eric Sweeney, you would become one of the first kids to embrace the spotlight. Born To Compete was just in it’s second year and now the company was growing faster than I we could have ever predicted. And now your game against Central Dekalb was front and center. That game would teach me so much about you because, you didn’t crave for the spotlight but when the lights were on and the cameras were flashing you were at your best. You would score three times, including a play in where you did a fake punt in your own endzone and took it 99 yards. After the game we did the interview and I noticed that the BEAST I saw on the field was just a 12year old kid that had a true passion for the game.
Later in the year was you guys first test, as you went on the road to play Coach Tim and the Atlanta Vikings in a hostile environment. Your team would respond like champions. You took the first punt back to the house, as you cut back across traffic, which is where I noticed your field vision was scary. It reminded me of one person, but I didn’t want to write that in an article because you were so young so I didn’t want to believe what I was seeing. Later in the game you intercepted a pass that had earlier escaped your hands but this time you caught it and did what Tre-Tre always tries to do and that is take it to the house. Your team won big and now was the #1 team in the state hands down.
The road didn’t get any easier, because now you were playing a team that was a matchup nightmare for Ben Hill. This time it was the Central Dekalb Gold team. You would be pushed mentally early in the game. You were having the worse game I ever saw you play. Luckily you were on a great team, as everyone knew how special that team was. Josh Poole would have an amazing run, Jamal Angruish would add some more spectacular plays on offense and defense. Central Dekalb would not budge though as they fought back, years down the road we would see how good that team really was as they now have over 10 players from that team with offers from major colleges. After giving up a touchdown pass in the corner of the endzone, the light went on for you. That’s when I noticed that you could overcome adversity. You instantly responded with a big interception that set up a touchdown and then you would win the game for your team as they were facing a third and sixteen. Coach Rob called your number as you got the ball heading to your left, gave the DE a stiff arm, sprinted down the sideline and dove in the endzone like Reggie Bush. That would give your team the lead they needed to advance to the MAYFL Championship game.
At the end of the video you would leave a message in the interview for everyone to come to the game. I believed that we did a wonderful job promoting the game, but never had I imagined what would happen. I knew everyone was waiting to see the #2 ranked Welcome All Panthers and the #1 ranked Ben Hill Tigers, I just didn’t know that we would pack a stadium. I say we because it was a marriage between youth sports and Born To Compete and now these two teams were front and center. Again as I hinted, I was late to the game because I was the only camera man at the time (got to start from somewhere right) and I remember walking on the sideline and hearing “hey your late”, I looked over and it was you. You told me that now the camera was here, you planned on putting on a show. I looked at you and laughed and hit your helmet. The first time they punted, you caught the ball and took it to the house. I was in absolute disbelief, as you strolled to the sideline with a grin on your face and yelled out “I’m just getting started”. The stadium was so loud that you couldn’t hear yourself think, with over the 10,000 in attendance. As Ben Hill took a huge lead, late in the game, Welcome All would prove why they had went undefeated the entire season and they battled back, but never once did I see you get rattled, even when Welcome All took the lead and Panther Nation was having a party in the stands. The next time Welcome All got the ball, you would dissect the play so fast that you beat the WR to the spot, picked it and set up the go ahead touchdown. You had your MAYFL Championship and now it was on to the Frank Ski Bowl, so that everyone in Atlanta could witness what I had been watching all year long.
The Frank Ski Bowl would change everything, now that you were on the biggest youth football stage in the country. No event is bigger, it’s just the facts. On the radio show with Frank and Wanda, you killed them with your charm (swag). When the championship game came, you made sure to find me as I was sitting in a corner by myself. We were both nervous. I was hoping that we could produce a great segment for the game, and you wanted to make sure your team won. It was my first time on this stage as a leader and so was it for you. Through the season I saw you change from a kid with swag galore, to a kid that had shaped himself into a leader of a great team. You were putting people in position to make plays on the field, as you were a captain in the secondary. You were encouraging your teammates, you had become everything I hope you would become and I was pleased to see you step up to the plate. In those fifteen minutes before you had to hit the field, you asked me every question you could and I answered them but one question you asked me shocked me. “Alex how good do you think I become”, I paused for a second and said “your talent is comparable to some of the best in the country but your will to win is unmatched”. I also told him “if you let that guide you, then there is no cap on how good you can be”. He nodded put on his helmet and took off as the coaches were calling him.
You would go on to play on of the greatest games in the championship of the Frank Ski Bowl from the defensive side of the ball. You helped keep Tucker’s high-powered offense in check as you dominated in the secondary. As the game got close, you put your stamp on the game with a kickoff return for a TD. You would later be named the MVP of the game.
Thirty minutes after the game you would find me and ask me was I proud of you. I looked at you patted you on your shoulder pads and told you that you could have done better but today you were the best player on the field. You accepted and moved and left to find your ride.
Later that summer I would get the opportunity to do a college trip. It was my first one, I was very nervous because I just wanted the kids to have a good time. I was very blessed to hook up with the Eric Berry Foundation and make it happen. I remember calling you and asking you to go. You was so excited, because this was your first college game you had ever been to. I was honored to be a part of it. As I watched you during the day, you were shy but, you were soaking everything in. When the game started, you would ask question after question about your position. You just wanted to learn so much and took complete advantage of the opportunity like you always did.
Over the years we would stay in touch over facebook and you would ask me to come to your games. I kept my promise and attended a few. You always made sure to find me whenever you could before you started the game, as I would wish you good luck. When high school came, I knew the pressure on you would be crazy when I saw your name mentioned in an ESPN article. I was so happy for you, you deserved the recognition. I thought it was funny to me how you messaged me later that day on facebook and asked me did I see it. I told you don’t worry about it that, just focus on the task at hand, again you would say yes sir. This past summer I would see you at the Cam Newton 7 on 7 tournament. You had matured and finally understood what I meant when I said let your will to win drive you. You had gotten with a great program called “I DARE YOU”. It was wonderful, you looked to be top physical shape and honestly speaking, I thought you were the best DB on the field in that tournament. You had a one handed interception that was just amazing. After the play you came over to me, just like when you were 12, and asked me was I proud of you. I looked at you and paused. Under that helmet, I saw a kid who was now a teenager, who I considered a younger brother and I said yes this time. Not because I was trying to build your confidence up but, because now I knew with you letting your will to win dictate how you prepare on and off the field, I saw greatness in you.
Now the kid that I met so long ago is gone. It’s weird, it hurts because I won’t be able to see you grow anymore and become what I believed and so many others believed that you would be. Your talent was amazing but what made you even better was your humble attitude and how you embraced the role of a leader. So many kids looked up to you. People would ask me how did I feel about making Tre Tre a star. My response is that I didn’t do anything except let the cameras roll. What you saw was him. Never once did he get the big head, never once was he a problem to deal with, never once did I have to question his integrity, never once did I have a doubt in my mind that he would fulfill his potential. Tre-Tre you are now gone to be with your mother, you are now in a place where you will never lose and in our hearts at Born To Compete you will always be remembered as our First Star.