Sometimes it's not that difficult to relate to the hardships of others, and then there are stories so heartbreaking you have to have lived them to truly understand the depth of the hurt and pain involved.
For Mexico grad. and former National Football League practice squad player Dedrick Harrington his divorce was an experience that left him with a choice, and since being present for his two sons was his top priority, the former area native now lives in Arizona and works as a State Farm Insurance Agent.
"A lot of the things that have happened to me I couldn't have seen coming or been prepared to deal with it. For example, I live in Arizona now because I want to be a Father," Harrington said. "There is nothing more important to me than being a Father. Teaching them and helping them grow into men, that's what football did for me. All sports, really. In terms of having a plan in place and every single day I was held accountable."
Not only did athletics help Harrington develop the mental and physical strength necessary to work his way onto three different NFL practice squads between 2007 and '08, but those same lessons have proved just as valuable in real life. That's because football taught him discipline and the ability to overcome adversity, traits that served him well during his five years playing at the University of Missouri, where he began as a safety before finding his home at linebacker.
"I'm away from my family and friends (in Arizona), but I've gained so much through Fatherhood and having my children. I get to put so much energy into them and I get to coach them and see their dreams fulfilled," said Harrington. "When you've got two people who really want to be like you, you look back and you're holding yourself accountable just as much as they do because you want to be the best teacher. After sports, I miss it, but when there's two sets of eyes always watching you, it's humbling."
One opportunity Harrington has been presented with multiple times that he hasn't acted on, but would definitely like to, is coaching. Instead, he gives his kids top priority until he can find a way to do both that doesn't steal from the greater good.
"I've had so many opportunities to coach between the private schools and prep schools here (in Arizona), but because I don't have family here to help watch my kids I haven't gotten into the coaching ranks as much as I've wanted to," Harrington said. "The offers have been there, all over the place."
As for what comes next for the Mexico product, because he stayed at the University of Missouri for five years, the education Harrington ended up with is certainly a strength. Add to that the character his loved ones helped instill along the way and the future appears bright for this former Dallas Cowboy, Indianapolis Colt and St. Louis Ram.
"I plan on continuing to follow my children and their pursuits. They're wanting to get into traveling sports and things," said Harrington. "Ultimately I hope I can work things out and get into coaching. I feel like that's my calling, working with people. I'm an administrator at my church with boys and men in ninth through 12th grade, as well as our men's group, which consists of people from all walks of life. Coaching and inspiring people is just something I feel like I've got to get in to."