Two years ago, Victor Davidson and Antoine Hawkins were on the verge of a collapse. Davidson and his mother were struggling to survive, with money problems forcing the pair to move apartments nearly every month. In short, he needed a stable place to stay. Meanwhile, Hawkins was in and out of trouble with the law, trying to minimize his connection with a gang he had been a part of for five years.
Both found a home together, at a place neither anticipated. Now, as chronicled by the Detroit News, the two are best friends and just concluded a senior football season playing for their adoptive father, Detroit (Mich.) Westside Christian School football coach Sean Tarrant.
"It's working out great," Tarrant told the News. "They get along with our children like they were blood. They watch TV together and watch movies together. If you walked into our house, you wouldn't know they weren't our children."
That both Michigan teens would end up at Tarrant's door is both surprising and unique. Davidson came to his coach asking for help after he and his mother finally found themselves checking in and out of homeless shelters to save money. After Tarrant drove the teenager home one day and Davidson refused to let him see where he was living, he took control of the situation, met with the teen's mother and told her that he wanted to take care of her son.
"Victor was sleeping in class," Tarrant told the News. "He was always saying he was hungry. I knew something was wrong. He asked one day if I could take him home and I did. A couple of days later I asked Victor if I could give him a ride home again. I took him and I asked if I could go inside and he said he didn't want me to. That was a red flag.
"A couple of days later Victor told me (they didn't) have a place (to live). I told him that he didn't have to worry about his situation any more and that he could come and live with us."
A few months later, Tarrant met Hawkins after the teen was playing in a pickup basketball game. After being introduced by a mutual contact who wanted to help Hawkins find a mentor, the coach learned more about the teen's desperate family situation; his father had lost his job and his mother was sick. The family's limited income and social aid couldn't pay for Hawkins and his mother's medication, and Tarrant's wife immediately stepped forward and insisted that her family take Hawkins off their hands.
That's what happened, and the senior has never looked back. After years of run-ins with police, Hawkins and Davidson, who now do almost everything together, are on the verge of a collegiate football career. Both 18-year-olds are scheduled to graduate from Westside Christian in January, after which they will attend Jefferson University and play for its Division II football program in Jefferson City, Mo.
"I want to go college," Davidson told the News. "It's a dream I've had for a long time. Now it's coming true."
And, as they prepare to leave the Tarrant's bustling, seven-child home, the family patriarch insists that he and his wife only want one thing in return for the generosity they have shown in the past year-and-a-half.
"My grandmother once told me that you never deny a person food," Tarrant said. "You show your love by feeding people. I never understood what she meant. Now I do.
"I want Victor and Antoine to take care of themselves. All I ask is for them to send us a copy of their college degrees. That's all I ask."