No matter what, he sticks by brother
|[Times photo: Toni L. Sandys]
Jeremiah Parker of the Giants wants his brother, a quadriplegic, to live in New York with him "because New York has some of the best rehab centers."
By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 26, 2001
In his rookie year from the University of California, Giants defensive end Jeremiah Parker is soaking in all the splendor of the Super Bowl moment. He is not, however, forgetting where he's come from and where he wants to go.
RM: What happened to your brother Theodore?
JP: It was my junior year in high school (Theodore's senior year), and he was shot four times in a drive-by. Right in front of my house in Richmond (Calif.). He's quadriplegic, but he's coming to see the game.
RM: What happened?
JP: They were intending to get the guys across the street, and he was just walking to work and was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was 17 at the time.
RM: Did you pick up a gun?
RM: Did you want to?
JP: Yes. When my brother got shot and I found out who did it, I wanted to kill him.
RM: But you didn't.
JP: I had to see the big picture. If I retaliated, I don't think we would be in the situation that we're in right now. A lot of guys that did stuff like that, and I know a lot of them that picked up guns, they weren't very successful in life. They ended up in two places, in jail or dead. That wasn't an option for me.
RM: That kind of puts this thing in perspective, doesn't it?
JP: This whole thing's a blessing. He gets paralyzed from the neck down, and he gets to come to the Super Bowl. My whole family gets to come.
RM: Tell me about your senior year in high school.
JP: It was just a trying year for me. My mom left and I was pretty much taking care of my brother on my own. It was a lot of pressure on me.
RM: How did you not become a bitter person?
JP: If anything, it made me more focused. It made me feel like my family was more dependent on me. And with my athletic ability, it drew me closer to Christ and made me pray a lot more. It made me stay away from a lot of the negative things in life so I could make it out of the place I came from.
RM: You say the projects where you lived were bad, worse than what we've seen on TV?
JP: I really don't think that they can show on TV the way it really is. It's worse. I can't even begin to describe it. There were nights when we couldn't even lay in our bed because gunshots would be coming through our walls. That actually happened. More than once. These were the types of things that went on on a constant basis. It's to the point now where we hear gunshots and it doesn't even faze us. Doesn't make me nervous anymore.
RM: Give me an example of how bad it was.
JP: I'll give you a perfect story. The hoop court is two blocks away from my house. I would come home from church on a Sunday and would go down to the court to play. So, on this day, I'm going to the park to shoot hoops with one of my boys, and he tells me that another guy had been in an argument with someone from around the way. So, we're there shooting baskets and then these guys just come around in a car and just shoot up the whole court. With a whole lot of kids out there. Just like that. So, everyone hits the ground and you hear the bullets hitting the walls around you. It's not a good thing. It was life and I had to deal with it.
RM: When did you realize that you had an out?
JP: Going into my senior year, when colleges started coming to the school and saying they wanted me to go to college. Then when I passed the SAT with an 860 and the teams started coming, it started to click that something could happen.
RM: So, Mom left you in your senior year and came back last year?
JP: Mom's around now, after the draft. That's a very interesting experience.
RM: With Dad and Mom out of the picture, how did you pay bills?
JP: My scholarship check. Look at it this way, I'm on scholarship, they're giving me free money to go to school. I'm coming from a place where no one gives you anything and you have to work for everything. You have to do what you have to do.
RM: So you're essentially your brother's ticket?
JP: It's not even like a brother/brother situation. It's like a marriage. That's my brother and I love him and I'll take care of him.
RM: What's next for you two?
JP: I have a place in New Jersey. My brother is coming out at the end of the season to live (permanently) because New York has some of the best rehab centers for quadriplegics. I'm trying to get my brother set up and trying to get him the surgeries. After seven years, the doctor said that he still can have surgery because the spinal cord hadn't been severed. It was shot and still has bone fragments, but because of the research being done now, they feel they can do that surgery. Financially, I'm in a position now where I can help my brother out.
RM: How do you prevent things like drive-by shootings?
JP: More interaction between the actual people in the neighborhood and the law enforcement. And you have to make it more accessible for young people to work and have money. When you can't get money, you can't survive. The whole mind-set in my neighborhood is to do whatever you have to do to survive.
RM: What would you say to Rae Carruth today?
JP: Why don't you sit down and talk to the families of the victims.
RM: You have any sympathy for him?
JP: Once you get to this point and you understand how you got to this point, you don't do anything to mess up your life or your money. Do you know a better way to make this kind of money for 17 weeks and live the lifestyle that we live? Yet, you chose to go out and hang out with guys that are doing things that you're not accustomed to doing or that you're not used to. Then you deserve what you get.
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