Gang life to a man of Christ for Avant

The Ea­gles’ re­ceiver gar­ners re­spect af­ter turn­ing life around.

Austin American-Statesman - - NFL - By Rob Maaddi

PHILADEL­PHIA — Ja­son Avant raises his hands to the sky af­ter ev­ery re­cep­tion in cel­e­bra­tion for much more than catch­ing a ball.

Play­ing foot­ball for the Philadel­phia Ea­gles doesn’t de­fine Avant. Af­ter ev­ery­thing he’s en­dured, the 29-year-old wide re­ceiver is not your or­di­nary pro­fes­sional ath­lete.

Avant was 12 when he started sell­ing drugs. He went to ele­men­tary school drunk and high. As a teenager, he be­longed to one of Chicago’s no­to­ri­ous gangs called the “Gang­sters Dis­ci­ples.”

Dodg­ing bul­lets and run­ning from the po­lice were com­mon for him.

Yet some­how Avant es­caped that life and avoided end­ing up dead or in jail like some of his friends. Now he’s one of the most re­spected play­ers in the NFL.

“When I lift my hands up, it’s me say­ing ‘Lord, I know where I could be and I thank you for where I am,’” Avant re­called last week. “There were times when I was grow­ing up when I didn’t have enough to scrounge up a quar­ter to get an ICEE. I re­mem­ber the times our house was shot up. I re­mem­ber when I didn’t have any av­enues, when I sold drugs. So I lift my hands up and thank the Lord for all He has done for me.”

Sports and prayer helped Avant stay free from harm. Avant was a tal­ented bas­ket­ball player, but he even­tu­ally choose foot­ball and the Univer­sity of Michi­gan.

When Avant got to Ann Ar­bor, his room­mate, run­ning back Ali­jah Bradley, was a pas­tor’s son. Avant and Bradley were typ­i­cal col­lege fresh­men on a big cam­pus, liv­ing it up and hav­ing fun.

But when Bradley got hurt dur­ing the spring be­fore sopho­more year, he de­cided he needed to go to church. Avant went with him. For two months, they would go each week.

On May 4, 2003, Avant’s life changed for­ever. He was lis­ten­ing to Pas­tor Lovell Can­non’s ser­mon at True Wor­ship Church in Detroit when im­ages from his life started flash­ing in his mind.

Avant stopped drink­ing, par­ty­ing, and even waited to get mar­ried be­fore hav­ing sex again. Avant be­gan study­ing the Bi­ble as if it were his playbook.

Nowa­days, the wide re­ceiver walks around the locker room singing gospel mu­sic and al­ways car­ries the Bi­ble.

“God has blessed me with so much,” he said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.