In a full house in Florida, Bron­cos’ Web­ster was “forced to grow up fast”

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Pa­trick Saun­ders

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 Coli­seum in Oak­land, Calif. Den­ver Post file

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