Arizona Cardinals safety Durrell Eskridge is sick and tired of all the senseless killing in his old neighborhood, Miami’s Liberty City.
In his 24 years, he’s seen six people shot and killed in front of him. Eskridge got out thanks to football, landing a scholarship to Syracuse. He now plays for the Cardinals. A lot of his friends haven’t been as fortunate. Many lie in graves or serve long prison sentences.
I recently spoke to Eskridge, activated by the Cardinals late in the 2015 season after getting released by the Jets in their final round of preseason cuts, as he promoted his “Jungle Heart” clothing line. Here’s what he told me . . .
It’s been a tough road.
Growing up without a father is always tough. You have a single-mother trying to raise a young man in inner city Miami.
We didn’t have much. We were poor. We slept in a car. We slept in a homeless shelter. We lived in a motel for a while. We bounced around to different family members houses. I went to seven different high schools. I failed 9th grade. I got kicked out of almost every high school in Miami.
Everybody has been through something, so I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me – I just want people to appreciate life and the opportunity we have – a lot of people don’t get these opportunities.
In Miami, you are going to see the deaths, you are going to robberies, you are going to see people beat up and slapped with guns. Anything you can name, I saw it all. I’ve seen more the six deaths in my face. I witnessed basically all my childhood friends getting 25 or more years in prison. I have seen it all.
I was trying to find myself as a young man, getting in and out of trouble. I was seeing it was starting to hurt my mom. She was crying. I was the baby boy of eight kids. She tried to give me as much as she can, to see her cry, it was tough.
One of the events that changed my life, and put me on the right path. My senior year. January 23, 2009. We were on the corner gambling – shooting dice – a guy came around with a black scarf on his face and an AK 47 and I took off running, I’m looking back and I can see him spraying the crowd where all my friends were at and seeing my friends bodies dropping that day – two of my friends lose their life. Brandon Mills, who had a 3.5 GPA at Miami Northwestern, lost his life. Five of my friends were wounded.
January 24, 2010, my little baby girl cousin was sitting on the curb, listening to music with her head phones in – shooting started and she saw everyone running and she tried to stand up to the bully and he killed her.
I felt I couldn’t get up in that anymore. I was hurting people around me. God gave me talent to play football and I wasn’t taking full advantage of that and I tried to straighten out for my family and become the man of the house.
Inner-city Miami, everyone killing each other, fighting about stupidity – things that don’t necessarily need to be fought for – just materialistic things – people dying over chains.
Right now, my generation and the generation before, we aren’t living past our mothers and grandmothers – making it to see 18. They walk around with guns. They killed six-year-old King Carter as he walked to an ice cream truck.
I was part of this ‘Jog for Peace.” We had kids jogging behind us. For peace and King Carter was one of those kids in the front jogging. For his family to lose a son who they just had six years—not being able to live out his life—is just crazy. Since that day I’ve been visiting high schools and junior highs – reading books to kids. I want to bring the community back together. Right now it’s not.
Eskridge’s teammate in the Arizona defensive backfield Tyrann Mathieu on Monday lamented his inability to stay in his hometown of New Orleans for prolonged periods because of the violence. After calling the alleged murderer of former New Orleans Saints defensive end Will Smith a “coward,” Eskridge’s teammate received death threats.