Jamarius Way began journey to NFL Draft chasing rabbits in ‘The Muck’

first_img https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/50/3e/jamarius-way-quote-041919-getty-ftr_1vdicoufy17861nwcb1r5mstm9.png?t=912055082&w=500&quality=80 Four years separated Jamarius and Robert. Jamarius calls Robert his mentor, though, like most brothers, there was rivalry as they were growing up.”It was definitely competitive,” he said. “We would always try to out-do each other. I really looked up to him, but I never let him know that he was my role model because I always wanted to be better than him. I used to always lose, I’m not going to lie, but he kept my head on straight. He was a mentor to me in the absence of my dad in my life. He’s a big part of where I’m at now.”Family bragging rights have tilted in Jamarius’ favor. Way is off to the NFL, having escaped the poverty and the fields and the other hardships that have enveloped so many other kids from the area. https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/e0/ef/jamarius-way-quote-041919-getty-ftr_xazyfk8f3ugb1uhoa7f7ydjot.png?t=912006066&w=500&quality=80 From the smoke and ashes, the latest to emerge is Jamarius Way. A receiver from South Alabama, Way hopes to follow in the footsteps of the dozens of “Muck City” residents who have reached the NFL, a list that includes Hall of Fame linebacker Rickey Jackson, running back Fred Taylor and receiver Anquan Boldin.”I’m not going to bash my city because I love my city,” Way said of his hometown of Belle Glade. “But, at the same time, it’s not someplace that I’d recommend someone to come stay because there’s not much to do. It’s a lot of motivation being able to play football and being able to go to college and get away from all of this. To be able to go to college and play and one day have a chance to go to the NFL, it’s all a big motivation. It’s part of the reason why we go play football — to help our families live a better life.”MORE NFL DRAFT:Best prospects by position in 2019 classGenerations of kids have gone to the burning fields to chase rabbits. It’s a tradition that is dying among the area’s athletes, said former Glades Central High School star Roosevelt Blackmon, a fourth-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in 1998 and one of Way’s former coaches at Glades Central.Not with Way, who joined his older brother — former Bethune-Cookman linebacker Robert Way Jr. — and cousins in the fields before going rabbit hunting for the first time when he was about 14.”Growing up in Belle Glade, it’s a very small town. There’s nothing to do besides play football,” Way said. “When you’re playing football, you want to try to get speed. In order to get speed, during sugar-cane season, they burn the cane in the fields and all the rabbits come out, so we chase the rabbits just for fun, just to get fast. We eat them, too, but we chase them just to get fast.” The fertile fields of “The Muck” produce sugar cane and football players.Every year from October to April, sugar-cane farmers burn the leaves of the plants to expose the canes that produce the sugar you put into your cookies or morning coffee. During those months, plumes of smoke soar into the air around the Palm Beach (Fla.) County communities of Belle Glade and Pahokee. As long as the sugar-cane fields have burned, boys from the area known as “Muck City” have braved the heat and smoke to chase rabbits in pursuit of dinner, a few bucks and bragging rights. The scene during cane season defies description. “The Muck” is aptly named. The fertile ground is muck; dark and wet. The black smoke “will kill you,” Way says, and limits visibility. The kids stand downwind from the smoke and the flames and wait for the frightened rabbits to emerge from the fire and tractors.Then, the chase is on.With their speed and ability to veer this way and that, the rabbits have the advantage.”You try your best to trap them and corner them to keep them from running in between canes,” Way said. “Once you get behind one, you jump down and you grab them. Rabbits cut really fast, so it could help you with your agility.”MOCK DRAFT 2019:Cowboys, Bears trades pay off for RaidersGrowing up, Blackmon figures he was a veteran of perhaps 20 rabbit hunts. He laughs when recalling his experience: “There’s a trick to catching a rabbit. You don’t just get behind the rabbit and run and catch it. You hit the banks and you hit the side and wait for them to come out. You use a stick to catch a rabbit.”Whatever the technique, the cane fields have helped produce scores of athletes. Way, a late-round prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft, is the latest. He spent the 2015 and 2016 seasons at Ellsworth Community College — “Cold. Very cold,” was Way’s description of Iowa Falls, Iowa — before landing at South Alabama. He caught 47 passes for 762 yards and three touchdowns in 2017 and 61 passes for 855 yards and eight touchdowns in 2018.Possessing size (6-3 1/2) that comes naturally and agility that was honed by chasing rabbits, Way will have overcome more than burning sugar cane to get to the NFL.”I had one of my closest friends get murdered three years ago,” he said. “That’s not the type of life that we’re supposed to be living. My friend was living a lifestyle he shouldn’t be around on the streets. I tried to talk to him and tell him, ‘Yo, this ain’t us. Come on, man. Come on the other side.’”That made me realize that life is too short. I’d rather go out with a bang than go out with nothing behind my name.” MORE: All you need to know about the 2019 NFL Draft in Nashville”The crazy thing about all of that is it’s so scary,” Way said of the draft process. “You never know when your phone’s going to ring. You never know if your phone’s going to ring. It’s a scary process but, at the same time, it’s something that I’ve dreamed about.”I was always playing ‘Madden’ and wanted to get me on the game and created myself. Now, I won’t have to create myself. I’ll be on the game.”last_img read more