Sorry, in advance, if this was posted already. I scanned and didn't see it. Looks like our new corner is a character guy, to say the least...
Overcoming dire Straits
New Jet CB a survivor
By RICH CIMINI
DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER
Derrick Strait hoped to go earlier in draft.
They gathered Saturday at the Champs sports bar in Norman, Okla., Derrick Strait and 20 of his biggest fans - family members, former teammates and his agent. Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops stopped by, too. This was going to be some draft-day party, the coronation of college football's most decorated defensive player, but it turned into an interminable wait.
The Sooner went later than he expected. Much later. Strait was hoping to be chosen late in Round 1 or early in Round 2, but he lasted until the Jets' pick in the third round (76th overall) - nine hours after the draft began. By then, the party had broken up. Strait already was home when he got the call. His guardian, Rodney Greene, a gym teacher who rescued Strait from childhood poverty in Austin, Tex., was back at his hotel, sleeping.
"We were shooting for the stars, but we'll take the moon - for now," Greene said yesterday by phone. "It was a numb feeling. Then we stopped and thought, 'Look where this boy came from.'"
Look at Strait as a youngster, running an extension cord from a neighboring apartment just so he didn't have to dress for school in the dark. There was no electricity because his mother, trying to support six kids on her own, couldn't afford to pay the bill. Things were so tight that she used to exchange food stamps to buy shoes.
Look at him as a high-school senior, coming home from his summer job at the furniture plant and seeing his family's belongings piled on the street, with an eviction notice tacked to their door in the housing project.
Look at Strait, taking his paycheck and renting a U-Haul truck, a temporary home for him, his mother, a younger brother and a nephew. They packed what they could, drove to a park and spent a night in the truck.
"That was the low point," Strait said from his apartment in Norman. "No one wants to see their mom cry. My mom was crying, and there was nothing I could do about it."
That's not true; he did something. He went to Oklahoma, started four years at cornerback and captured the Bronco Nagurski Award as the top defensive player in the country. This spring, he hopes to graduate with a degree in criminology.
This from someone who, on his recruiting trip to Oklahoma, showed up on campus wearing a T-shirt and shorts - in a snowstorm - because that's all he had. One of the coaches let him borrow a trench coat.
"(The adversity) makes you cherish what you do have, and makes you live for every second," Strait said, reflecting on the tough times. "It made our family stronger. Even though we were separated, it brought us closer together."
Most of Strait's siblings went to live with an aunt, who was diagnosed with cancer and died a short time later. Derrick packed his belongings into two trash bags and moved in with Greene, his old middle-school coach. At the time, Greene was dating his future wife.
"I told her, 'He's part of the package,'" said Greene, who is listed in the Oklahoma media guide as Strait's father
Said Strait: "We were homeless for a while, and he helped me when I needed it real bad."
Strait combined his athletic ability with a strong work ethic. As a kid, he used to practice his lefthanded layups until 1 a.m. At the furniture plant, he arrived at 6 a.m. even though he was listed as a part-time employee. He took that determination to Oklahoma, where he made 14 interceptions in 51 starts.
He lasted until the third round because his 40 time (4.5) is a fraction slower than the elite corners. The stopwatch isn't everything. Strait faced Texas' Roy Williams four times in college, and Williams, chosen by the Lions with the seventh overall pick, was held to 237 yards and no touchdowns.
So, yes, the wait on draft day was painful. Then the Jets called, and his mother cried again, but it wasn't like that night in the U-Haul. These were happy tears.
Brenda Strait couldn't be reached for this story. According to Derrick, the phone in her apartment isn't working.
Put aside the fact that he held Roy Williams to 237 yds & no tds in 4 meetings, all the awards,etc. This guy is special if for no oher reason than his will to succeed. This kid overcame unbelievable odds to get where he is.
Don't bet against someone of his character- It's what motivatives him.
What is the difference btwn those of equal or similar talent who make it in the NFL and those that do not. IT'S WHAT THIS KID HAS!
Terry you did a hell of a job bringing this kid in here..
The Strait's family struggles and the challenges he has already faced in life are what makes everybody including myself troubles seem miniscule. This is a guy you have to like no matter who you root for.
Family life is more important than winning football games.