November 14, 2006

His Brother's Keeper

On Saturday Lincoln and I helped set an attendance record (85,313) at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. Also in attendance was 10-year-old Kierstan Pendleton, biological cousin of 22-year-old Sooner lineman Carl Pendleton (pictured at left).

Carl and Kierstan are also brothers. As columnist Steve Rushin explains in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated, "Carl's parents, Carl and Nechia, adopted Kierstan when he was nine months old and a so-called crack baby -- an epithet presumed to doom him to a life of despair. 'A lot of times in life, people tell you what your circumstances are,' says Carl. 'But God gave him these amazing abilities.'"

When their parents divorced this year, Carl and Kierstan became roomies in a small apartment near campus. As Rushin explains, Carl is pretty much father, mother, and brother to the little guy.
Carl wakes Kierstan every morning at 6:15 -- singing -- at which time they recite a morning devotional. "I'm tough on him, because I want him to be great," says Carl, who has started 20 games in three years for the Sooners. "He's a smart kid, and it's best to get the laziness out of him at an early age." ...

Carl cooks Kierstan's dinner, washes Kierstan's clothes and buys Kierstan sneakers whenever he runs a hole through the sole. "I just bought him those shoes," says the 6' 5", 269-pound everymom. "But how do you tell a kid not to play?" ...

[Earlier this year], Carl was asked to speak to a church group, which offered him an honorarium. "That's not necessary," he demurred. "We don't need it."

"But we're broke!" shouted Kierstan.

When Carl stopped laughing, he told Kierstan, "Don't worry about it. God will always take care of us."

Two Thursdays ago, Carl and Kierstan came home from the Switzer Center to find a FedEx envelope at their door. It was from the National Football Foundation, to which Carl -- who has another year of eligibility remaining at Oklahoma -- had applied for a post-graduate academic scholarship. More nervous than he expected to be, Carl unzipped the envelope.

"Congratulations," began the letter, which granted Carl $18,000 toward future tuition and named him a finalist for the Draddy Award, the "academic Heisman," given to college football's top scholar-athlete. The two brothers were jumping and screaming in their living room when Kierstan shouted, "You were right!"

"About what?" said Carl.

"God does provide for us."

That's when Carl made the decision that had been weighing on him for months: After this season, he'll give up the game he loves to concentrate on Kierstan and studying education in graduate school at OU. "Kierstan is watching and registering everything I do," says Carl. "He challenges me to do what's right."
Update: Greetings to those of you who found your way here from Mike McCarville's blog. Stick around for a while. And don't bother reading my posts; the real star of this blog is my incredible wife, who writes stuff like this, this, this, and this.

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