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As a troubled teen, former NFL star Donald Driver was placed on the right path by a loving neighbor.
It was a shiny little Cadillac with leather seats. The kind the guys at the chop shop paid 500 bucks for. The streets of Houston’s Fifth Ward were empty. I wrapped my fist in my T-shirt and punched through the back window. In a flash I was in.
I pulled out my screwdriver, jimmied the steering wheel and popped the ignition, just like my older brother had taught me. The engine roared to life. Then I heard sirens. I pushed the pedal to the floor. Red and blue lights flashed in my rearview mirror.
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I’ve got to get off this road, I thought, or I’m going to juvie for sure.
I was 12 years old.
It seems crazy now. Today, everyone knows me as Donald Driver, wide receiver with the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, Pro Bowl player and winner of Dancing With the Stars. I’ve dedicated my life after football to helping disadvantaged kids around the country.
But back then, I was Quickie, a nickname that described my speed as well as how fast I was headed in the wrong direction.
Mom would have strangled me if she’d known what I was up to. My dad had gone to prison for robbing a convenience store while she was pregnant with me. I didn’t meet him until I was six. Mom wanted a better life for me, my two brothers and two sisters.
She worked long hours to support us—first as a housekeeper at a hotel and then nights as a security guard. We went to church three days a week. But she often fell behind on rent and then we’d have to move. For a while we even lived out of a U-Haul trailer.
Trouble really started when we moved next door to a man named J.R. Mom trusted him to watch us while she was at work, and he did. What Mom didn’t know was that J.R. and his buddies were dealing drugs.
My older brother Moses and I served as lookouts. We knew it was wrong, but the money was too good—$100 a night. We broke it into smaller bills, and regularly slipped some into Mom’s purse.
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“Shoot, well, I guess I do have money for the light bill,” Mom would say, finding an extra twenty in her wallet. The way I saw it, we were helping the family.
Then Moses discovered we could bring in even more cash by stealing cars. I was just tall enough to reach the pedals. Before long, I got good at playing two different characters. Quickie the son, who went to school and got good grades, and then Quickie the kid who dealt drugs and stole cars.
I practiced giving the same smile, hug and kiss for my mom when I came home, no matter what I’d done on the streets. She never suspected a thing.
Now, though, I was about to get caught. The sirens got closer. I turned into a back alley, my best chance to lose the cops. I was almost free. Suddenly, up ahead, a car backed out of a driveway. I slammed on the brakes.
Too late. The Caddy T-boned the other car. Through the shattered windshield, I saw a little old lady sitting stunned in the driver’s seat. I jumped out. Thoughts flashed through my brain. Gotta get away! I had a head start on the cops, but...What if she’s hurt? You can’t just run away.
I stopped. I turned back to see if the old lady was okay. I hadn’t forgotten everything I learned in Sunday school.