A day with Jaquan Yulee

Published 9:36 pm Wednesday, June 17, 2015

By Domenick Epps

Greatness starts with realizing that the journey is as important as the destination.

It was an honor as a Suffolkian to attend the live college announcement for five-star high school football recruit Jaquan Yulee, held at Indian River’s high school auditorium in Chesapeake.

Email newsletter signup

On the panel were his father Fred Yulee, grandmother Janice Copeland, Lakeland High School basketball varsity head coach Clint Wright (his former coach) and Indian River varsity head football coach Glen Ferebee, who is a former Lakeland varsity football coach.

Family, friends, teammates and the media were also in attendance, and everyone was anxiously waiting for this rising high school senior to make his announcement. But before the announcement, we all had the opportunity to hear about the journey.

Born to Fred Yulee and Leslie Manley of the village of Holland, Jaquan had a trying path filled with adversity and naysayers. As a young athlete, he just couldn’t fit in. He was always told he was too big or thought to be “too old.”

But when I was coaching Pop Warner football, I had the opportunity to see for myself that this kid is truly gifted. In school, he faced academic challenges, including a hard-fought battle when his football coach and parents sought to have him advanced, allowing him to skip eighth grade.

He was awarded the advancement, but it was accompanied by much criticism, as many believed his grades would suffer, making him ineligible to play.

As a freshman, Jaquan was a starting linebacker and made his presence known on a Lakeland football team that was making serious noise in the Southeastern District. At the end of his sophomore year, Jaquan’s dad relocated to Chesapeake, and Coach Glen Ferebee returned to high school football after a short stint as the quarterback coach at Hampton University. The two were reunited in a program that was turning things around.

Most important, Jaquan was now a student first and an athlete second. Following his junior season, the offers started piling up from the universities of North Carolina, Auburn, Florida State, North Carolina State, Alabama, Oregon, Florida and Miami, to name a few.

The kid from Suffolk has the opportunity of a lifetime. Now it was decision time. His highlights played on a huge projector screen followed by comments of the panel and then the decision.

Filled with emotion, so much so that his grandmother Janice grabbed the mic to speak, Jaquan finally made his decision. Humble and excited Jaquan informed us all of his decision to attend the University of Alabama #rolltide.

Domenick Epps is a Suffolk resident, real estate agent and youth pastor. Email him at DomenickEpps.Realtor@gmail.com.