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Attention Young Athletes – Stop and Think BEFORE You Act

According to the Legal Community Against Violence, “the United States experiences epidemic levels of gun violence, claiming over 30,000 lives annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Firearm homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans ages 1-44.

African Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, but in 2007 suffered over 26% of all firearm deaths – and over 55% of all firearm homicides. In 2011, those statistics have not improved.

Unfortunately, for each statistic, there is a real person who has died from a violent act. One of those statistics is Marcus Hankins, “Marcman” as he was known by his schoolmates and friends. Marcus, born January 26, 1993, was laid to rest on Sunday, April 24th after suffering three gunshot wounds to the back after violence erupted at a party he attended.

A few years earlier, Marcus found himself going down the wrong path and was hangin’ with the wrong crowd. But, he had made a remarkable turnaround and found his true talent as a member of the varsity football team during his senior year at South Brunswick High School.

During the fall of 2010, he gained 2010 rushing yards, received passes for a total of 448 yards and scored 32 touchdowns. Records show that he scored four touchdowns in five separate games – an amazing achievement for a football player at any level.

Marcus was recruited by a multitude of colleges and universities as well as being selected First Team Star News All-Area, NC Prep; First Team All-Conference, Football Player of the Year; State Port Pilot, and Offensive Player of the Year for South Brunswick High School. He was looking forward to playing for A&J State University in Greensboro where he was offered an athletic scholarship.

A week before Marcus died he had received his cap and gown and had stopped by his grandmother’s office to proudly display the symbols of an important milestone in his life. He was an active member of First Baptist Church where he was a member of the Sunday School and Junior Choir.

I’m sure when Marcus made the decision to attend the party, he wasn’t thinking he wouldn’t make it out alive. It’s a classic case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. If he had made a different decision, his family wouldn’t be grieving his loss right now.

His premature death reminds me of what Levar Fisher, former outside linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals, tells youth in his motivational speeches – F.R.E.E.Z.E and Think about the consequences BEFORE you act (freezeandthink.com). One thoughtless decision can affect the rest of your life, or, in Marcus’ case, end your life.

If Marcus had adopted the F.R.E.E.Z.E. and Think mentality before attending that particular party, he might still be with us…full of potential, full of hope and promise. Maybe even on his way to NFL someday.

I hope Marcus’s story inspires you to enact the F.R.E.E.Z.E. and Think philosophy in your own life, or to admonish a talented but perhaps troubled youth who may cross your path. By taking action now, by taking time to listen and help, you just might save a life. You just might prevent another statistic.

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