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From the football field to the classroom: ‘Why not me?’


September 01, 2017

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When people in the local community hear the name DeAngelo Tyson, most will think back to his days as a standout player for the Statesboro High School Blue Devils. Others will remember him for his days playing for the University of Georgia. Still more will point to his days in the NFL, playing for the Baltimore Ravens or the Seattle Seahawks.

But although football has provided much for Tyson, it’s not what he wants to be known for. The soft-spoken and gentle giant wants to be remembered for his contributions to kids who are starting life just like he did.

Tyson spent the better part of his youth at Joseph Home for Boys in Statesboro. He first entered the home when he was in the fourth grade, and remained there until his high school graduation. He says neither his mother nor his father were there for him. But there were several women at the boys home who reached out to him and invested in his life.

Tyson also says he had friends when he was a child, but “they knew.”

“People kind of turn their back on kids that have a different kind of background,” he said. “I felt it, growing up. People assumed I was a bad child. I did have friends, but they said, ‘he stays in the boys home.’”

Those relationships with friends and with the adults who reached out to him became very important to him as he transitioned from childhood to his adult years, and he’s come to understand that having positive role models is increasingly important for children, particularly those with difficult backgrounds.

“It’s not easy growing up in a group home, no matter what type of child you are. I was told that football was my ticket out,” he said, adding that it taught him responsibility and accountability, and provided those much-needed male role models.

“I think you need those qualities in life to even be semi-successful. I think those skills are taught in football, because at the end of the day, you are working with a team, and if you are working with a team, you gotta be able to be trusted. You gotta do the things that you say you’ll do. You have to be a leader. Football helped me with that,” he said.

Football also gave Tyson an outlet for the emotions he carried as a young man that he didn’t know how to handle in any other way.

“You can’t get into trouble for hitting anybody on the football field. That was my safe place to go,” he said, smiling.

Tyson also found that football gave him a unique platform that he could use to help kids who are dealing with the same types of struggles he faced.

“My foundation was started when I finally realized what I can do with the platform that I was on at the time, playing in the NFL, and knowing what I went through, coming up as a young child. Having support by non-family members, I knew how that helped me. All I wanted to do was be able to give another child hope,” he said.

And that’s just what he’s doing.

After Joseph Home for Boys closed, Tyson saw a need in Statesboro, and sought to reopen a local facility. His foundation stepped in to help.

With the mission to “serve youth, young athletes and teenage mothers through support and opportunities that will empower them to unlock their own personal potential,” the Tyson Foundation, founded by Tyson in 2014, holds football clinics for underprivileged kids, connects community members with at-risk children and teens, and provides education classes for teen mothers. In 2015, the foundation also stepped up to the plate to open the Joseph House.

The foundation partnered with Broken Shackles Ranch Inc., located in Davisboro, Georgia. The ranch provides a home for young men, ages 16 to 20, placed there by the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice, the Department of Family and Children Services or legal guardians. While at the ranch, the young men can get vocational training, as well as help with any drug abuse, emotional or psychological problems, with the end goal of helping each one become a responsible, dependable adult.

The ranch has two transitional living programs. One is The Omega House in Augusta, Georgia, and the other is the Joseph House in Statesboro. In partnership with the Tyson Foundation, the ranch purchased the old Smithfield golf course, a property that includes a 300-acre cypress lake.

“That was a blessing, because I know that we as (the Tyson Foundation) board never thought we could get it done as quick as we did,” he said. They held an event in March 2015, and closed on the property in October that same year.

Tyson says the property will include a sports complex for the young men to come and “hang out and do sports.”

The Joseph House, he said, will house about seven young men.

“I think it will be a good atmosphere, because having the sports complex around it, it gives the kids more than one thing to do, whether to play football or basketball, baseball, canoeing, archery. I just look at it almost like a family reunion for those kids. They’ll be able to come to that one spot to have fun and relax, and understand that they are normal also,” he said.

Although his demeanor exudes humility, Tyson is aware that his background and his success have placed him in a position to be a role model, and it’s a role he relishes.

Tyson has now taken that success and his background into the classroom and onto the football field at Claxton High School. He is teaching at the Second Chance Academy there, and is the defensive coordinator for the Claxton High Tigers. He is excited about working with the students at Second Chance.

“We’re helping them get into the right grade, and also teaching them social and emotional skills, so when they go back to the regular high school, they will be better prepared with their learning and know how to interact with other people,” he said.

He calls his current situation a blessing.

“I get to work with kids that do need help. That’s all I ever wanted to do, to help someone else achieve their goals,” he said, acknowledging that the students he works with may see him first as an NFL player, but once they get to know him, they can relate to his upbringing and aspire to the kind of success he’s had.

“When they see your success, they look at it and say, ‘Why not me?’ All kids need to see the hard work that it takes to achieve success. No matter where you come from, all you gotta do is stay focused, keep God first, and get your education,” he says.

He’s excited to be in Claxton, although his family is still in Atlanta. He hopes he will soon be reunited with his bride and high school sweetheart, Shabrae. The couple has five children: three boys and two girls, ranging in age from 8 to 1.

“I love my family and I love my wife the most,” Tyson said. “She loved me for who I was, when I was in the boys home. I just thank her for showing me what love was, because at the time, I didn’t know. I didn’t have a mother or a father.”

Tyson says the separation is a struggle.

“But I feel like I’m supposed to be here in Claxton. This is my chance. This is what I want to do,” he said.

In addition to his role at Second Chance, Tyson is also part of an almost entirely new coaching staff for the Tigers. He says things will be shaken up this year.

“What we’re doing both offensively and defensively, it’s different than in years past. The guys have really bought into what we’re trying to do,” he said.

During a spring scrimmage this year, the Tigers defeated a team that beat them last year.

“That tells me that they can play football, they just didn’t know how to play football. That’s the difference between this year’s team and last year’s. This year, we’re gonna know how to play football,” he said. 


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