School, fatherhood, football connect former Temple teammates
David Hood has been a dad and a college football player and sometimes he had to do both at the same time.
Last year during summer workouts at Temple, little David IV, then 3, tagged along with his dad for a few days. Up at 5 a.m., Hood brought his son to the locker room, the training table, the practice field – where the youngster stretched with the team – and then the weight room.
”It was adorable,” Temple coach Geoff Collins said.
Exactly how many major college football players are fathers is difficult to know. The NCAA does not keep track of student-athletes who are parents, and schools often don’t share such information. But it is certainly not uncommon in college football.
Hood, who was Temple’s leading rusher last season, was one of four Owls players parenting young children in 2017, including Hood’s former roommate and fellow running back Ryquell Armstead. Neither is married, but both are raising their child with the child’s mother. They each receive plenty of help from other family members and say Temple coaches have been supportive and accommodating. And, of course, they can turn to each other for encouragement and guidance on juggling school, fatherhood and football.
”They’re going to call that me and Ryquell’s legacy because that’s all we do,” Hood said. ”That’s all we do is talk about what’s going on and try to find the best possible solution to make it work.”
Hood, 21, has moved on from football, graduating from Temple and leaving a year of football eligibility behind after sustaining a concussion this past spring. He has decided to focus solely on a promising career as a rapper.
The native of Atlantic City, New Jersey, arrived at Temple in 2014 a father, something he kept hidden from coaches who were recruiting him, worried they would pull his offer. He was living with his girlfriend, pregnant at the time, when then-Temple assistant Francis Brown came for an in-home visit.
”I told her to put the biggest hoodie on she could find,” Hood said with a laugh. ”They cannot know. So they didn’t know until I got there.”
When he got to Temple, Hood found that coach Matt Rhule and his staff wanted to help him be a parent and a student-athlete. Freshman and sophomore football players were required to live on campus, but Hood was allowed to get a place off campus with his girlfriend, Tiffany Gordon, and David IV.
”I was coming from class and going straight home to my son and my girl,” Hood said.
Now at Baylor, Rhule said he believes educating every man in his program about fatherhood is part of his job. Rhule held a weekly voluntary class on fatherhood last season at Baylor, led by his 69-year-old father, Denny, who is a former minister.
”It’s one thing to say, `Hey, I want kids to be great fathers,”’ Rhule said. ”It’s another thing to give them the tools and resources not just for them but for us (coaches). Look at what it really means to be a father and how to do it. That’s the first thing is giving formal training and not just giving lip service, but having something there. The second thing is: understanding as a coach how hard it can be to be a father.”
Collins, who followed Rhule as Temple coach, said he allowed players with children to skip mandatory Sunday training table.
”We would make those accommodations,” Collins said. ”If their child gets to spend two or three or four extra hours with their dad that’s very important to us as a coaching staff.”
Armstead’s daughter, Ry-kail, was born Aug. 5, 2015, the day before the start of his first preseason camp at Temple.
”I stayed the night and I left that morning to go compete for a job and I ended up becoming second string as a true freshman,” said Armstead, who was second on the team in rushing last season.
Since then Temple coaches allowed Armstead to miss preseason activities that fall on his daughter’s birthday.
”My coaches understand. They support it. I’m definitely not missing that for the world,” said Armstead, who is expected to be the Owls’ top tailback this season as a senior. ”Those are memories you’re never going to be able to get back.”
Temple is about a 40-minute drive from Armstead’s hometown of Millville, New Jersey. He has spent a lot of time making that drive, but is not around his daughter as much as he would like. He said he is lucky to have family willing to pitch in and credits Ry-kail’s mother, Lamera Rhett, with providing stability for his daughter.
”She’s a wonderful human being. She’s very dedicated, hard-working,” Armstead said in a recent phone interview on his way to work an offseason job at a Philadelphia-area restaurant. ”She makes sure my daughter is well back home and my family all rally to watch my daughter when my baby momma has to go to work, things of that nature.”
Holding a job is all but impossible for most major college football players during the season, and between winter conditioning, spring ball and classes, it doesn’t get much easier in the offseason.
Hood and Armstead received football scholarships to cover tuition, room and board and books, plus a $2,500 cost-of-attendance stipend. Both also qualified for federal Pell grants, which give financial assistance to attend college to students whose families qualify. Armstead and Hood both said the Pell grant money helped immensely.
”Man, when I got my Pell grant for $2,800, I took 700 off the top,” Hood said. ”We’re going to get my son clothes for the whole season. The rest of that was going to the bills. I just save the rest for another rainy day. You got to live quietly. It was humbling. It humbled me a lot. You couldn’t do the things everybody else was doing, going out, buying a thousand pair of sneakers. I had to grow up real fast.”
Often that meant while teammates were celebrating a victory, or commiserating after a loss, Hood and Armstead were not around.
”With me taking pride in my daughter, I do the things like not partying,” Armstead said.
Usually, Hood and Armstead’s children attended Temple home games and watched the rest on TV.
”He knows exactly who I am on the field and he knows exactly what position I play,” Hood said. ”He knows exactly the people I play with. He knows exactly what channel you can catch me on. And he wants to wear my jersey for a week.”
Hood said David IV and Ry-kail have become friends. The moms sometimes get the kids together without the fathers. No longer teammates, fatherhood is likely to keep Hood and Armstead longer than football ever could.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25