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Hastings never lost his cool

By JAMAL THALJI

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 5, 2000


TAMPA -- Miles Davis gave birth to the cool. Andre Hastings was cool.

At Morrow Junior High, that is.

But then Hastings moved on to Morrow High. It was 1986, and Hastings, a sophomore, found himself facing an unfamiliar dilemma: No longer was he "the coolest."

He wasn't uncool. Certainly not. But ultimate coolness, once his, had escaped his grasp.

It was only temporary, he cooly assured himself.

"In junior high, I was the coolest," he said. "So when you're the cool guy in junior high and you go to high school, you're already semicool. You're just working up the ranks to be the coolest in the high school, you know what I'm saying?

"Of course, I would think I'm cool. But I would still be looking at the older cool guys, trying to figure out what they're doing, so I can be cooler."

Such was life for 15-year-old Hastings in the suburbs south of Atlanta. "You're just looking for your groove," he said, "trying to fit in where you can."

And the 28-year-old wideout seemed to fit in everywhere in high school. He easily ran the gamut of the cliques of teen life as though he were in every other scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

"I was in all the accelerated classes," he said. "I had classes with all the quote-unquote "smart people.' Because I played athletics, I hung around with all the jocks, so I had the best of both worlds.

"I could fit into both."

Hastings' life then revolved around:

His car . . . girls . . . his car . . . family . . . his car . . . athletics . . . his car . . . school . . . his car.

Did we mention the car? A 1984 Toyota Celica that Hastings took painstaking care of.

"It was cherry pearl red," said his mother, Debra. "He loved that car. He washed it every day, took good care of it."

Even though Hastings had only a learner's permit, a car was vital to recapturing that elusive coolness, whether he was hanging out at South Lake Mall, catching a movie with friends or lettering in football, baseball, basketball and track.

Of course, the car had to be cool as well.

"I got tinted windows and a stereo system, a Clarion," he said. "I mowed lawns back then. I saved up my money. But I always had a little spending. Back then I was supposed to drive from home to school only.

Only?

"Well," he said, smiling. "I drove a little bit more than that."

So, did he eventually reclaim the mantle? Did he become the coolest at Morrow High?

"Yeah," he said, flashing a self-assured grin. "Pretty much."

Q: Andre, What kind of kid were you back then?

A: Pretty much the same I am way now. In fact, then I had a really bad temper. I got suspended from school once a year. My mom always knew when it was coming. She was like "That mouth and temper of yours is going to get you in trouble." It never fails.

Q: If you could impart some wisdom to yourself back then, what would it be?

A: I would say, don't look for excuses, depend on yourself. Because if you're doing it yourself, you won't have anyone to blame but yourself. Who did I trust? Me, that's who. Who do I expect to blame? Me, that's who. I think a lot of times kids are thinking Mom or Dad is going to help me. There's nothing wrong with help, but I would say be responsible for yourself and take responsibility for your actions. You can only point the finger at yourself.

SUPER BOWL XX

Jan. 26, 1986

New Orleans

Bears 46, Patriots 10

MVP: Richard Dent, Bears defensive end (1.5 sacks, two forced fumbles).

IN THE NEWS: Jan. 28: The space shuttle Challenger explodes after launch, killing all seven aboard. Feb. 26: President Ferdinan Marcos flees the Philippines after ruling 20 years; newly elected Corazon Aquino succeeds him. April 26: A major nuclear accident occurs at the Soviet Union's Chernobyl power station. Nov. 6-on: A secret U.S. initiative to send arms to Iran is revealed. Nov. 19: President Reagan denies exchanging arms for hostages and halts arms sales. Nov. 25: A diversion of funds from arms sales to Nicaraguan Contras is revealed.

BEST PICTURE OSCAR: Out of Africa

MUSIC OF THE MOMENT: Whitney Houston

EVERYBODY'S WATCHING: L.A. Law

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