FROM CHAOS COMES SUCCESS
In a full house in Florida, Broncos’ Webster was “forced to grow up fast”
Dedication and a tight-knit family steered Broncos cornerback Kayvon Webster to work out, study and succeed throughout his childhood.
Chaotic is not quite the right word to describe Kayvon Webster’s boyhood home in Opa-Locka, Fla., a crimeplagued neighborhood northwest of Miami Beach.
Crowded, with occasional turbulence, mixed with plenty of love, is a more appropriate characterization. At times there would be 17 people sleeping in the four-bedroom house owned by Eula Lawson, Webster’s beloved grandmother.
A frequent house guest was Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who remains best friends with Webster’s younger brother, Paul.
“That house got kind of crazy. I’d have to wait in a long line to take a shower,” Webster said, chuckling. “We had two bathrooms, but only one was a full bath with a shower.”
So, at age 15, the future Broncos cornerback and special-teams standout began sleeping over at friends’ houses, or with an aunt and uncle. He also spent countless hours pumping iron, studying and hanging out at Monsignor Edward Pace High School. He was something of a teenage vagabond, but he didn’t see his lifestyle as unusual.
He said it helped mold him into the assertive, self-confident player he is now.
“It was kind of up to me to make my way,” he said. “There are a lot of kids in Miami who are forced to grow up fast like that. Our parents are always at work, and as you get older, you adjust. You have to find yourself.”
Armed with an innate inner strength,
guided by lessons passed down from his parents and grandmother, and blessed with athleticism and speed, Webster thrived. Sunday, he earned a game ball for his special-teams performance in the Broncos’ 2316 victory over Pittsburgh in the AFC divisional playoff game.
In the first quarter, the Broncos punted on their second possession of the game, and as the ball tumbled toward the end zone on its way to an apparent touchback, Webster turned on his jets and knocked the football backward, pinning the Steelers at their 3-yard line. His play helped set up one of Brandon McManus’ five field goals.
“Kayvon has been exceptional for about the last eight weeks,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “He’s playing with confidence across the board.”
If the Broncos beat New England at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday, Webster will play in the second Super Bowl of his three-year career.
“It would be fantastic,” said Webster, who was drafted from South Florida in the third round in 2013 after becoming the first in his family to graduate from college. “I’ve wanted to play in the NFL since I was 6 years old. I’m blessed to be part of the Broncos organization. They have given me a chance, but I have always tried to maximize all of my opportunities.”
Bring up Webster’s name to teachers and staff at Pace High School and they gush with admiration.
“Kayvon was a tremendous kid here at Pace, a ‘yes-sir, no-sir’ type of kid,” said Anthony Walk- er, the dean of students who also was Webster’s assistant football coach and his head track coach. “He was great academically as well, with a 3.5 GPA. I always believed Kayvon had the athletic ability to get to the (NFL) level, but you just never know. But I do know that he was very focused.”
Much like at his grandmother’s home. Pace became Webster’s refuge from Miami’s mean streets. The school has been selected as one of the top 50 Catholic high schools in the nation by the Catholic Honor Roll.
“Pace gave me a little bit more discipline,” Webster said. “You couldn’t miss class, you had to make grades.”
His parents, who helped foot the bill to put him through Pace, insisted he didn’t waste his chance.
“I had great parents and they made sure I handled my life the right way,” Webster said.
Still, to find his own way, he had to break free from his crowded environment.
His father, Paul, brought seven children into the house. His mother, Patricia, brought in four kids of her own. An aunt and uncle lived there too.
On weekends, it was not unusual for friends to crash at the house, where they would sleep, eat, horse around and play video games. One of those who found a safe haven was Bridgewater. His mother, Rose Murphy, worked long hours, often starting her day at 5 a.m. When she took a second job cleaning classrooms at a local community college, Bridgewater turned to his second family.
“I basically lived with Kayvon’s family on weekends,” Bridgewater said. “I was best friends with Kayvon’s little brother, Paul. We’d stay over and get ready for our Pop Warner games on Saturdays. It was crowded, but the Websters were a very tight family. That’s why I tell everyone that I consider Kayvon’s mom my second mom. That’s how much she means to me.”
The area where Bridgewater and Webster, as well as Steelers all-pro receiver Antonio Brown grew up, is a cradle for great athletes. But it’s easy to get lost on the streets of Opa-Locka, Liberty City and Overtown.
“Guys like me and Kayvon were lucky, we had sports and school,” Bridgewater said. “There are gangs and a lot of drugs. Guys end up in jail, some guys just pass away before you even know it. It takes strength not to become a statistic. Kayvon was always smart, he always had that drive. He figured it out.”
Cornerback Kayvon Webster posed this week at Broncos headquarters, where team preparations continue for the AFC championship game against the New England Patriots on Sunday. Joe Amon, The Denver Post
Kayvon Webster of the Denver Broncos celebrates knocking the ball away during an October game against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. Denver Post file