Rider gains perspective through tragedies
Brandon West always seems to be moving forward at the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ training camp.
Whether he’s darting through a hole in the line, catching a pass out of the backfield or returning a punt or kickoff, the diminutive tailbackreturner continually keeps going after running into a defender.
That’s the way West has lived his life, too. Losing his father to leukemia and his adopted brother to a violent death hasn’t stopped the 23-year-old product of Brunswick, Ga.
“I can’t fall back,” West said Monday after the Roughriders practised at Mosaic Stadium with their final preseason game looming Wednesday against the host B.C. Lions “People go in a hole when they fall back, when something bad happens. You can’t. You’ve got to keep pushing.”
William West tried to keep his illness from Brandon, but the youth caught on — and contemplated quitting football as a result.
“I wanted to stay home a lot with my dad because I finally figured out he had cancer,” Brandon recalled. “But then it just made me want to strive for more.”
On June 4, 2005, William succumbed to leukemia at age 37. Brandon was 17.
“That’s when I started playing football seriously,” West said. “Everything just came: Success, scholarships. I thank my dad for that. I know he’s watching.”
West headed to Western Michigan University on a football scholarship. By the time his senior season rolled round in 2009, the five-foot-10, 193-pound dynamo was closing in on the NCAA record for career all-purpose yardage — and his halfbrother, Chris Kimp, was planning to attend the Broncos’ game Nov. 14 against Eastern Michigan to see West go after the mark.
On Nov. 8, Kimp was shot to death in Brunswick. He was 21.
West attended a wake for Kimp on Nov. 13, then travelled to Ypsilanti, Mich., on game day and rushed 25 times for 140 yards to break the NCAA record for all-purpose yards.
“(Kimp’s death) helped me out a lot as a person: Don’t take things for granted,” West said.