The photographs, as they always do, tell a story.
Jawan Jamison keeps a series of them in frames lined up neatly on his kitchen counter. There’s a wallet-sized self-shot of his sister, Courtney, taken in a mirror. His 3-year-old daughter, Raven, strikes a playful pose in another. Those on the ends are of his father, James – one positioned in a handmade black frame, the other a collage resting under a piece of broken glass.
Barnes-Davis plans to rectify that. No timeframe of Jamison’s life is complete without his mom. The bond between mother and son is strong and deep. A single parent for much of her life, Barnes-Davis raised her three children – James Jr., Jawan and Courtney – to be strong and independent.
“I was driven by wanting to tell my mom she doesn’t have to work anymore one day because of all the stuff she’s done for us,” said Jamison, a rookie running back for the Washington Redskins. “That drove me.”
His mom’s health “drives me even more.”
Raised to respect
Each morning, before her children headed off to school, Barnes-Davis made sure they looked their best. Starke is a community of no more than 6,000 residents in northeast Florida, and they knew their actions, and appearance, reflected back on their mother.
Those values were handed down by her mother, Grace Barnes, who worked two jobs to raise four daughters. Grace Barnes learned from her own mother, Dora Carter, a widow who had to raise a family on her own.
Money wasn’t easy to come by; Barnes-Davis, a hairstylist, occasionally held two jobs herself and earned an associate’s degree in nursing. Hard work and respect were important, and Jamison learned about both at a young age.
“He wasn’t allowed to come out and play basketball until he had his room cleaned or his homework was done,” said Cory Elasik, a childhood friend of Jamison’s whose father, Rich, was their first Pop Warner football coach. “I can remember times where she would call him, or call me, and say, ‘Send Jawan home. He didn’t clean his room or do his homework.’ She made sure he was always respectful – yes ma’am, no ma’am.”
Barnes-Davis shuttled her children between games and practices and tried to stay mindful of their schoolwork. When Jawan and Courtney reached high school, she enrolled them in the prestigious Bolles School in nearby Jacksonville, a college preparatory boarding school with strong athletic programs.
Jamison helped the Bulldogs to consecutive Class 2A high school football championships, which earned him scholarship offers to several big-time football schools. When it was time to make a decision, he chose Rutgers, remembering his mother’s enjoyment during a recruiting visit.
“She likes to go to New York and shop, and being that close [to the city], she just fell in love with it,” Jamison said. “I went there solely to make her happy because of all she had done for me – coming to my games, being there, giving me what I want, being a good mother and teaching me everything.”