VARINA, Va. -- The run was inspiring.
The story and support behind it, just as inspiring.
Varina's Taesean Crutchfield, then a junior linebacker, was singled out by his coach for taking it upon himself to direct his teammates away from Atlee's Sepp Shirey, giving him the freedom to at least try his miraculous run and then giving him the support to pull it off.
"People don't understand the direction that he took," said Varina head coach Stu Brown. "The leadership that he took to allow 20 other people on the field to allow Sepp to have his moment."
That Crutchfield was the center of that movement surprised a lot of people, even Taesean himself.
"14-year-old Taesean? He probably wouldn't have even wanted to be on the field" Crutchfield said of himself. "14-year-old Taesean was selfish, thought about himself, didn't really have feelings."
"It just had to change."
Crutchfield was adopted just before he turned a year old, by friends of his parents who were living a lifestyle that was not suitable for raising a young boy. His adoptive mother whom he has always called "mom" raised him ever since.
But Taesean admittedly took advantage of her good nature and single parent status when he entered his teens, living a life he admits a 14-year-old should not have been living.
"I came home from school every day, dropped my book bag, sometimes I didn't even have a book bag, and just went straight outside," Crutchfield recalled. "Sometimes I'd come in the house 12, 1 in the morning."
Taesean was eventually placed under house arrest and spent time in juvenile detention for assault and other charges. There are times when the criminal justice system will try to keep young people out of such punishment but in Taesean's case, it was the medicine he needed to turn himself around.
"I actually turned 16 while I was locked up," Crutchfield said. "That really opened my eyes and told me, this can't keep going on anymore."
"Once you get locked away, you're at level one. You've gotta work your way up every single time."
Taesean had his freedom, his family, and his football taken away. Getting those back was his top priority. It wasn't a given that he would be allowed to return to Varina, so it wasn't a given that he would return to the Blue Devils either.
"I know what football can do for people," Brown said. "Football can be positive. I knew he needed positive relationships in his life not only from the coaching staff but from his teammates."
"This [Varina football] is all I thought about when I came home," Crutchfield added. "All I thought about was this. This is where I feel loved. This is where I can release. Every time I'm ready to make a mistake, I think about this and how I could hurt them [his teammates]. Everybody in that locker room, I can hurt them with one decision."
Because of his experiences, both on and off the field, Taesean has become something of a role model for his teammates, which is not something anyone could have expected just a few short years ago.
"A lot of people say they understand, but you can't understand something you haven't been through," Crutchfield explained. "When you say you understand, I really understand."
"The thing he helps our team with the most is overcoming adversity," Brown added. "No matter how hard it gets, let's stick together, lets overcome adversity, met it head on and let's get better."
Taesean's birth mother recently passed away while behind bars. His birth father was just recently released from jail himself. He has friends who have been killed on the same streets he ran when he was younger. Any of those fates could have been his without a change in his lifestyle.
"He's got several reasons to make an excuse to transfer blame, to point fingers, but he chooses to get up off his back, keep coming back and be a good person," Brown said.
"There was times I could have died, and there's times stuff could have happened and gone terribly wrong, but God has my role for me," said Crutchfield.
"Everything I do, I take advantage of because most people don't get second chances. When you do, it's a blessing."
Crutchfield would love to play football in college, but if that does not work out, he has not ruled out enlisting in the military. He is a member of the JROTC at Varina.
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