Charita Goshay: Second chances demand good choices

Charita Goshay

A few eyebrows were raised last week when the University of Akron in Ohio announced that former Massillon Washington High School football player DeVoe Torrence would be enrolling in school and playing for the Zips.

Last month, Torrence was acquitted of charges that he had engaged in sex with an underage girl. Several of his friends weren't as lucky.

I don't know DeVoe Torrence. I know he's a talented athlete, which, in this sports-mad culture, means he has enjoyed adulation from the moment that talent became apparent. I know he was accused — fairly or unfairly — of wrecking the Tigers' team chemistry, resulting in last year's ugly season, maybe even a coach's departure.

Was bringing Torrence onboard at Akron a bad decision? Time will tell. If whatever occurred in Massillon was a genuine mistake of youth, that will become evident by the way he carries himself from now on, because people don't change. As the adage goes, character is who you are when no one else is looking.

A math problem

And someone always will be looking. There are people waiting, hoping that Torrence will drop the ball — and he needs to prove them wrong.

Is it fair that Torrence is expected to receive a scholarship to play football at Akron, in light of the fact his legal issues derailed his chance to play at Ohio State, and when so many students are struggling to pay tuition?

Yes. A person's acquittal in a court of law is not precluded by how other people may feel about it. Colleges and universities make millions off their athletic programs. It's only fair that the gifted men and women involved be given an opportunity to acquire an education. And the very least those athletes can do is take full advantage of it. Many don't, because they delude themselves into thinking the NFL or NBA is an inevitability, when what they need to remember is that for every free-agent NFL success story like Joshua Cribbs, there is a Maurice Clarett, a draft choice who ends up in a jumpsuit instead of a jersey. For every Dustin Fox, there are a hundred Justin Zwicks: guys who do everything right and still don't make the cut.

When you're a college athlete, that's all the math you really need to know.

Reflected glory

Even so, we sometimes forget how inexperienced young athletes can be at life. Remember how clueless you were at 19? Now, add to that celebrity and people constantly at your elbow, in your ear, telling you how great you are, all the while jockeying to bask in your reflected glory.

If Torrence surrounds himself with smart and positive people, he'll be well-prepared for life long after he can no longer outrun a linebacker. If he opts to shirk the hard work that maturity requires, add his name to the list of could-have-beens who languish in the abyss of obscurity because, while they could read a play book, they never bothered to peruse the handwriting on the wall that reads: "This too, shall pass."

I've never met DeVoe Torrence, but if I ever did, I simply would tell him this:

Don't blow it, kid.

Reach Repository writer Charita M. Goshay at (330) 580-8313 or e-mail charita.goshay@cantonrep.com.