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Jeanty overcoming odds

Dallas Jeanty has a unique background and, in turn, a unique outlook on
life. He's also wise beyond his years. In a brief conversation with Jeanty -- a
class of 2016 linebacker who plays for Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) -- he shares not
only common quotes of wisdom, but a mature outlook not found in many young men
his age.
"Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it," he
said, referring to being forced into homelessness for a period of time.
"I'm too blessed to be stressed," he said about figuring a way out of tough life
circumstances.
Two years ago, a messy situation involving child protection services left Jeanty
without a legal guardian. He spent the next two months finding a new place to
sleep each night.
"My mom was going through a lot," he said. "And my dad left when I was young,
came back, and left again. I would find the safest alleys I could go to sleep in
or find somewhere in public places where I wouldn't get in trouble."
The family of a close friend took him in temporarily, and at the same time he
supported himself working two jobs. He also continued to stay in school and play
football at Fort Lauderdale. Eventually, a teacher at the school -- Malease Berg
-- took Jeanty in to live with her family of five.
"That's my family and I'm so thankful for them," he said.
He still works jobs, one at a grocery store and the other at a restaurant,
waiting and busing tables. This all the while juggling the typical
responsibilities of a high school student-athlete.
"It's a balancing act," he said. "Going to school and football practice and then
one of my two jobs, it's not easy to handle. Sometimes you get jealous because
you see what others have that you don't have."
Despite all that he has been through, or perhaps because of it, Jeanty has a
drive that keeps him hungry for success, and he continues to work hard in
regards to his studies, at his job and on the football field. The result is a
3.9 GPA, a 29 ACT score, a Rivals.com three-star rating and a No. 98 ranking in Florida.
He even finds humbleness in waiting tables.
"Waiting tables has inspired me to keep grinding for these (college football
scholarship) offers -- you know what I'm saying?"
Jeanty's hard work in the classroom and on the field is paying off when it comes
to his recruitment. Ivy League schools Penn, Yale and Dartmouth have all
offered. Army -- his current top choice -- has offered and
Duke has shown interest.
An offer from Duke or Stanford, another school he'd like to hear from,
would be a "game-changer" for his recruitment, he said.
"I talk to coach (Derek) Jones at Duke," he said. "He's real cool. He's all
about first impressions and how you present yourself and I really appreciate
that."
A mention of Stanford and his eyes light up. He hasn't spoken yet with the
staff, but he said his transcripts have been sent to the university.
"Stanford has been one of my dream schools for years," he said. "I haven't been
to the campus yet, but I've seen it on Google images and that's a school I'm
working toward."
It's that attitude that has potentially saved his life. He's aware of short-term
routes he could have instead taken, which include crime, drugs and the street life. After seeing others experience that first-hand, he knew that wasn't the path he wanted to take.
If you ask Jeanty, it's not necessarily a matter of will power that has pushed him away from a losing lifestyle.
"I can't even say I'm an insanely strong person," he said. "I just kept thinking, 'Look at all these guys who have been here dealing drugs on the same block for 30 years.' I didn't want that for my life. So as bad as things got, I made sure I always got to school -- I didn't necessarily get there on time -- and I made sure I did all my homework whether it was at the library or (a coffee shop) that has the free WiFi."
In college football, there have been players such as Adrian Peterson,
Johnny Manziel, Odell Beckham Jr. and others who have bolted for the NFL the first chance they get. As a result, a lot of current high school prospects often say they are looking to play in college for three
years, then make the jump to the league.
Jeanty doesn't share that perspective.
"Obviously, I'm making a 40-year decision, not a four-year decision," he said. "I want the best opportunity academically, but for football too, because I like to win games."
From a recruiting standpoint, Jeanty has a lot going for him. He proved that last weekend at the Rivals Camp Series Presented by Under Armour event held at Miami Gulliver Prep School. Southeast recruiting analyst Rob Cassidy, who covers the Sunshine State, saw a lot of positives in
Jeanty's camp performance.
"He's got a great build for a linebacker whose strength is pass coverage," Cassidy said. "That's why I think he does so well at camps and in 7-on-7s. He could work on becoming quicker in run support and making hits, but if he adds more weight and muscle and gets on a college workout program, he could improve fast. You can tell he's already put on a lot of weight and muscle in just the last year.
"But I'm surprised he doesn't have more offers because he's so good in coverage and he's very smart."
Cassidy also notes Jeanty has been outspoken about Army being a top choice, and that Jeanty could potentially commit during the academy's spring game depending on how things shake out. However, Jeanty is keeping his options open and, in addition to Army, Duke and Stanford, staying in the Miami-area is something he
would consider should the Miami Hurricanes extend an offer.
"Staying here to play for 'The U' would be big time," he said. "I know a lot of guys who want to stay here and play. That would be big-time."
Though Army is Jeanty's leader and he'd like to hear from a few others, he said he'll put in the same work in making that decision that he has to get to this point.
"I'm not going to say which school," said Jeanty, "but one of them went up to my coach and said, 'We're not going to offer him because he won't even look at us and, at the end of the day, it's just going to be another offer for him.' Coming from where I'm coming from, I look at every offer individually and I appreciate everything I've received in this life, because I know that not everything comes so easily.
"I'm blessed to be in this position, and I'll keep working harder to be in a better position."
But before Jeanty makes his college decision and even before next football season, there are plenty of tables he will be tending to as a server. He's not only comfortable with that, but takes it in stride.
"Sometimes people come in and they're mad," he said. "I just shrug it off. Something's going on in that person's day. Sometimes I'll throw them my employee discount, or have a manager comp their meal. Everyone has it harder than you think. People come in mad, but I try to be as cool about it as possible.
"I've got too many blessings to be upset."
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