“As far as a bad bone in his body, there isn’t one,” said George Smith, his high school football coach.
Being around so many children then helped Hank learn how to care for them. He would change their diapers and play games, following the lead of his mother and grandmother.
After Hank’s freshman year at Dillard High, a public school, he transferred to private St. Thomas Aquinas High. He was a standout basketball player like his father, but he decided to try football. It turned out his talent in that sport was even more elite.
“I think the place kind of encompassed him, and he thought this is a place I could be successful,” Smith said. “His entire culture changed, which meant that he changed this way of thinking about what the world was. That’s how I read it.”
Hank and Kie Kie’s relationship began during the summer after his 10th-grade year. She was a year ahead in school at Dillard. Within months, he began living with her. Hank was in 11th grade when Kie Kie got pregnant with L.J.
She worked at Lady Foot Locker and Victoria’s Secret. Hank washed cars for friends and neighbors for $20 per car.
“When you’re in high school,” he said, “that’s a lot of money.”
“I always felt like I was lucky because I watched all my other friends that had kids, and their baby dad wasn’t helping, wasn’t around, didn’t see them,” she said. “I just watched them struggle, I guess.
“But with Hank from high school and college, I felt like I was lucky because he was always here. We lived together. He helped me. So I always thought I was lucky even before he got to the NFL.”
In some ways, Kie Kie remembers those as easier times. His presence as a caretaker means that much to her and the children.
“If I could trade it in,” she said, “I would prefer him to be around more.”
Role model for teammate
Na Na held her daddy’s burgundy and gold football helmet with both hands while he spoke to a reporter coming off the practice field at training camp in Richmond last month. About 10 yards away, L.J. spotted his dad’s teammate, receiver Pierre Garcon, and raced over to request an autograph. Na Na toted the helmet as she went running after him.