Saturday, August 16, 2008

Homeschooled J.J. Redick: “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.”

By Brendan Lowe

February 10, 2006

ROANOKE, Va. – A Duke University student from the backcountry, a basketball player who practices pilates and poetry, a white guy with an affinity for tattoos and Tupac Shakur. During the past four years, Duke senior guard J.J. Redick has proven stereotypes stick to him as well as defenders.

As the instigator of the Maryland-Duke rivalry that has prompted some of the most violent riots in the university’s recent history, Redick has dealt with some of the worst insults and offenses pelted on a basketball player, yet they have left him unfazed.

“It is not difficult to block out the crowd and sometimes play along with the crowd, especially during warm ups,” he said in a statement e-mailed from Duke. “Once the game starts, it is easy for me to just focus on what is going on in the game.”

As he makes his way to the campus that has inextricably linked his name with an expletive, Redick will muster all of the confidence he is so well known for as he faces Maryland for the last time.

However, best friends and coaches from his hometown in Roanoke said there is another side to Jonathan Clay Redick. Off the court, the average guy’s grandstanding goes quiet like a raucous rival crowd hushed by one of his long-range three-pointers.

“He’s always been extremely confident on the court and sure of himself,” said Billy Hicks, the Cave Springs high school basketball coach four of the five Redick children have played for. “That doesn’t mean he’s a cocky person off the court. He’s far from it. He’s a very giving, loyal person off the court.”

“I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” — Philippians 4:13 A tattoo on Redick’s chest.

Redick’s youth has the aura of a fairy tale. After he watched former Duke forward Christian Laettner receive the pass from Grant Hill, turn, and hit the winning jumper against University of Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA East Region, Redick announced to his parents he was going to play basketball at Duke.

Fast forward to his adolescence. In the spring of 2002, Cave Springs found itself poised to play in the state championship without its champion. Redick, who had committed to Duke before his junior year, had injured his foot in the semi-final game, and while the team prayed at dinner before the final, it was very unlikely he would play. Redick’s father reminded him of the line from Philippians 4:13.

“On a 1 to 10 pain scale, [Redick] said it was a 9,” Hicks said. “He got down on his knees in the locker room before the game and he said, ‘Lord, take away the pain for 32 minutes.’ He went out and played and scored 43 points, and we beat a 28-0 team that was much better than us at every position but his, and we won the state championship.”

Redick still recites the passage before each free-throw attempt.

Tom Hagan, Ryan Hergrueter and Daniel Payne, seniors at the University of Virginia, Virginia Military Institute and William and Mary, respectively, and Redick’s best friends, attribute his resoluteness to his family and his faith.

Redick’s mother, Jeanie, homeschooled him through fifth grade, and his father, Ken, who averaged 5.5 points per game for Ohio Wesleyan University, coached some of Redick’s youth teams.

Jeanie and Ken, whose past work as a potter led to Redick’s middle name of ‘Clay,’ declined to comment for this story.

By all accounts, the Redick family is tight-knit, brought together by their shared athleticism. Barring injury, all five of the Redick children will have played Division I-A basketball or football.
“You look at the whole Redick family, and the best athlete is the little girl,” Randy Meck said of Abby, a 6’0” freshman basketball player.

Not being the best is nothing new to Redick. Though he played on the same Amatuer Athletic Union team as more naturally talented players, including former Terrapin John Gilchrist, Redick unlocked the key to his success — literally. After Hicks gave his guard a key to the gym, Redick was shooting 500 jump shots a day.

“Even now, if he’s home for two nights, he’ll be in this gym for two nights,” Meck said.
“Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” — Joshua 1:9 Another tattoo on Redick’s chest.

To slow down Redick, Terps fans have thrown everything they have at him, including batteries, spit and sexual suggestions about his mom and sisters. While Payne said his friend is unshaken, comments about family cross the line.

“He hates that his family had to go through all that and they have to hear all this stuff,” Payne said. “If he had a chance to talk to Maryland students, he’d say chant all you want, but to keep it on me, keep it on Duke, leave his family alone.”

Hicks believes fans’ vitriol has forced Redick to become more withdrawn. The expressive outlet of poetry helps, Hicks said — Redick counts rap artists Tupac and Nas as his biggest influences — as does the loyalty of his three best friends, who have been a unit since junior high.

Hergrueter, a economics and business major who walked onto the basketball team at VMI, recalled an evening five years ago when Hergrueter was spending the night at Redick’s. The two were shooting hoops on the family’s gravel road around 10 p.m. when they decided to make 10 straight free throws before going to bed. Predictably, Redick made his 10 in about two minutes, Hergrueter said. For some reason, Hergrueter, the 6’6” center on the Cave Springs state championship team, was having great difficulty consistently making free throws. Redick encouraged his friend until he finally completed the task three hours later.

“He would not leave my side,” said Hergrueter, who added, “I would totally consider J.J. my brother in a way.”

Redick’s loyalty to Cave Springs runs deep, his friends said. Hicks said Redick makes sure to attend at least one Cave Springs game during each winter break and that he has brought nearly everyone he played with on the state championship to a game at Duke.

That hometown love was shaken recently when a fan at the Virginia Tech-Duke game in Blacksburg on Jan. 26 held up a sign reading “Cave Springs Hates J.J.” Afterward, Hergrueter, who attended the game, said Redick emerged from the locker room surrounded by four police officers.

Despite the run-ins with opposing fans over the years, Hicks believes Redick will ultimately benefit from attending Duke. He still remembers verbatim what Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski told him while he recruiting Redick.

“He said, ‘If J.J. comes to Duke, he will not be a good player, he will be a great player. When he leaves, he will go down as one of the greatest to ever play at Duke, and the fans will adore him.’

Sean Glennon: It Began at Age 9

BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 15 -- Sean Glennon made himself wait up. Sure, he was only in third grade, and, yeah, the clock crept toward 11 p.m. But Glennon had his routine, and he was going to stick with it, bedtimes be hanged.

He loved football and wanted to be a quarterback someday, and he realized work had to be done for that to happen. Every night, he did 100 sit-ups, 50 push-ups and 10 pull-ups, only his small arms couldn't handle the pull-ups alone. His father, John, had to help him.

So Glennon sat in his room -- the posters of Emmitt Smith and Michael Jordan hanging in the background -- and waited for his father to come home from a late dinner with Sean's mother. Finally, around 11, John arrived in Sean's room, where a small pull-up bar stretched across the door frame.

Glennon hoisted himself up as his father held him, and they started counting, all the way to 10. Then, and only then, would Sean go to sleep.

"He knew," John Glennon said. "He had a plan, even at a young age."

Glennon is 20 now, and everything is still going according to plan. After an offseason of competing with Ike Whitaker and Cory Holt for the chance to start at quarterback, Coach Frank Beamer announced Sunday that Glennon had won the job. Glennon, a redshirt sophomore, earned the role thanks to an accurate arm, deceptive athleticism and sound decision-making. But he also won it because of the same driven work ethic and meticulous attention to detail he has always had.

"I guess it's just how I was born," Glennon said. "I just like things in order. I like knowing where things are. Even now in college, I hate messy rooms."

His major is finance, so technical that it suits him perfectly. Growing up, Glennon always had the cleanest room in his house. He made his bed every morning from the time he was 5 years old, with no pleading from his parents.

John Glennon would find lists Sean made of his 20 favorite football players, ranked in a constantly updated order, lying around the house. And that wasn't enough; Sean Glennon would ask everyone their favorite football players. He asked houseguests. He asked opposing base runners from center field during Little League games. He knew his list; shouldn't they?
"He sees life in black in white," John Glennon said. "He just has a very analytical mind."
But one not devoid of passion. When Glennon lost a game of cards or Monopoly as a kid, he would throw a tantrum. If he lost a shooting contest before a basketball practice in high school, he stayed mad the whole practice. He sometimes wakes up his roommate, wide receiver Justin Born, in the middle of the night, screaming at his television because he lost a video game.
"He's one of the most competitive guys I know," Born said.

That nature helped him become a star at Westfield High, a school that was brand new when he arrived and a Virginia state champion when he left. When colleges came calling, Glennon studied the quarterback depth charts at each possible school, sizing up who was there and when they would leave. He left no scenario overlooked.

It came down to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, and he chose the Hokies because he sensed in Blacksburg a family atmosphere, to him an important part of a football team. John's career at ExxonMobil forced the family to move three times during Sean's childhood. He lived in Texas, New Jersey, Texas again and finally Centreville in ninth grade.

At each stop, football became his social outlet, the place where he met all his friends. He met Born and Virginia Tech wide receiver Eddie Royal at Westfield. Royal and Glennon became fast friends, a relationship forged by endless hours of throwing and catching during the offseason. Royal came with the Glennons when they visited Wake Forest and North Carolina on recruiting trips.

They room together with Born now, and they bought dogs together, a pair of puggles that drive Born crazy.

"He's just Sean to me," Royal said. "I don't know how to put it into words."

Glennon's chemistry with Royal carried over from Westfield, something Glennon strives for with all his receivers. Though he can be fiery, John Glennon never once saw Sean admonish a teammate over a mistake.

Funny, then, that he earned the chance to win his starting spot because of a teammate's dismissal. Marcus Vick would be Virginia Tech's starting quarterback, likely a front-runner for postseason awards, if not for his pattern of misbehavior on and off the field.

When Virginia Tech dismissed Vick, Glennon changed his mentality. He focused on starting and becoming more of a leader. Always a proficient lifter -- he can bench press 350 pounds and run the 40-yard dash in 4.7 seconds -- Glennon spent even more time in the weight room. He stayed in Blacksburg over the summer, throwing passes to Royal and hitting the weights.

"I think it's a bittersweet feeling," Glennon said. "I actually really liked Marcus. I thought he was a good guy, and a very good player. I loved watching him. I didn't want to see him go like that. But at the same time, it opened up a door for me."

He understood the chance to lead his own college football team, to realize the dream he had nurtured since grade school. And now, Glennon is waiting no more.