For troubled student, a sport and a coach provide a chance for a big reversal
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Five minutes into his first day at Gulf High School, Ladarious Jackson already felt lonely and depressed.He didn?t know anybody. He felt different because he was black and almost everybody else was white.
So while other kids shot hoops and got to know each other, Ladarious did this:
He growled and barked at cars that sped by the campus.
Jay Fulmer, the school?s head football coach, approached the 15-year-old freshman. Fulmer knew Ladarious because his older brother, Anthony Jackson, had been one of the school?s best athletes ? before the cops came for him.
?Why are you barking, son?? Fulmer asked.
Ladarious pulled his shirt over his head.
Fulmer knew some of the boy?s history: His mother had a lengthy criminal record, including a crack cocaine arrest when she was pregnant with him. Ladarious was one of 10 children by 10 different fathers. None took credit for him.
It didn?t seem this boy would make it at Gulf High ? or anywhere else.
But as long as he was enrolled, he at least had to stop barking at cars.
The coach asked him about sports. Ladarious didn?t seem interested.
Fulmer walked him to the gym to meet Travis DeWalt, the wrestling coach who had just been given a new assignment: dropout prevention.
?I think I have your first candidate right here,? Fulmer said.
Ladarious Jackson was born on Jan. 8, 1992, to Florida Department of Corrections inmate No. 757886.
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