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  1. #1
    singersp's Avatar
    singersp is offline PPO Newshound
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    Sep 2005

    NFL draft may reunite mother and son

    [size=18px]NFL draft may reunite mother and son[/size]

    Every year, the NFL draft provides its share of rags-to-riches stories. But none can top the tale of Penn State's Tamba Hali, who discovered football after escaping Liberia's civil war and leaving his mother behind 12 years ago.

    Mark Craig, Star Tribune
    Last update: April 24, 2006 – 11:38 PM

    Tamba Hali was a child when he hugged his mother in an airport near Liberia, turned and boarded a plane for the safety of the United States.
    He hasn't seen her since.

    "That was 1994," Hali said. "But I'm trying to bring her over now. My sister, too."

    Like many prospective NFL draft picks, Hali is on the doorstep of completing a rags-to-riches story for his family that most of us can only experience with a Powerball ticket and astronomical luck. But unlike those eight Nebraska meatpackers who recently won $365 million, Hali, a 6-3, 275-pound defensive end from Penn State, will earn his jackpot with talent and a résumé that makes quarterbacks wince.

    That's good news for his mother, Rachel Keita. The decade-long civil war that ravaged her west African country ended in 2002, but Keita still lives in a hut with a dirt floor. And only recently did Hali's father, Henri, a chemistry teacher in Teaneck, N.J., send her a cell phone so that she could hear the voices of Tamba and three of her other children, who also fled Liberia 12 years ago.

    "It's going to be a drastic change for her," Hali said. "She has no clue what's going on, that she won't have to live in a hut, that she will be living in a nice home."

    Keita's knowledge of sports starts and ends with soccer. And even that's limited.

    "I told her [about the NFL], and she said it sounds rough," Hali said. "I said, 'Well, I really like playing it.' And she said be careful."

    Hali, the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year with 11 sacks as a senior in 2005, is projected as a second-round draft pick. Second-round picks earn an average signing bonus of about $1.5 million. First-round picks average about twice that.

    Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, a projected first-round pick, left school a year early because he wants to help his four siblings, the youngest of whom is a senior in high school. Their father, Solomon, was killed in an trucking accident three years ago. Their mother, Olga, died in January because of kidney failure.

    "It's tough," Ngata said. "But I have to use it as motivation to take care of my family. My dad and my mom are finally going to see me play together."

    Purdue defensive end Ray Edwards didn't meet his father until he was 13. His mother made "poor choices" and wasn't part of his life, either. So he was raised by his grandmother, Lavonia Beamon.

    "My grandmother works nights at Wal-Mart," Edwards said. "I want to put a stop to that. That's why I left school early."

    There are many more stories like that in this year's draft. But the most heart-warming tale belongs to Hali. "He tells me things that make my jaw drop," said Alan Zemaitis, a former Nittany Lions teammate.

    Hali was in grade school the first time rebels attacked his city. He heard a plane crash nearby. Then gunfire erupted.

    "We didn't know what to do," Hali said. "Then it started happening all the time. So we went into hiding."

    Hali's stepfather got a car and drove the family to a village far away. They would spend six months in the village, return and be chased away by the violence once again.

    "After a couple of times of this, my mother and [stepfather] thought [the kids] should flee the country," said Hali, who was 10 at the time.

    Henri, Hali's father, left the country when Hali was 2. According to Hali, Henri could sign for the children to come to the United States because they're blood relatives. But first the children would have to be taken to Ivory Coast, a neighboring country, where they would contact Henri in the United States.

    "It's hard to explain to somebody what it's like when they haven't really gone through it," Hali said. "We produce a lot of war games, and we've seen [on TV] what happened in Iraq. But it's hard to explain to people what it's like to actually be in that situation and feeling like maybe today I could die."

    Hali witnessed several murders.

    "Sometimes," he said, "it would be a lot of people at once. You'd see a stack of bodies sitting on the side of the road."

    Even children carried guns and ran around "killing people for no reason," Hali said.

    Hali's mother was shot in the leg a couple of years ago. She was walking in Monrovia with three or four friends when trouble began.

    "Three of them got killed," Hali said. "My mother was shot in the knee. But by God's grace, she's still alive."

    Hali is working toward becoming an American citizen. He filled out the paperwork and is waiting to take the exam.

    "It'll be a great day when I become an American citizen," he said. "This is where I want to be. This is where I want my family to be."


    Alan Zemaitis, a former Nittany Lions teammate of Hali

    NFL draft may reunite mother and son

    "If at first you don't succeed, parachuting is not for you"

  2. #2
    ryanmurphy is offline Pro-Bowler
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    Dec 1969

    Re: NFL draft may reunite mother and son

    Good story...

  3. #3
    VikesfaninWis's Avatar
    VikesfaninWis is offline Jersey Retired
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    Dec 1969

    Re: NFL draft may reunite mother and son

    Good to see he can turn his life around, and also the lives of his family. God gave him great talent, so he took advantage of it, and put it to good use.

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