Continued from page 3

Lisa and all six children, and occasionally a couple of other cousins, lived in a two-bedroom apartment at one time. She worked for the Broward County school system as a bus attendant and bus driver. “It was always chaotic,” she said. “I thank God for the help I did have.”

Lisa never had to worry about Hank acting out. He always has been self-disciplined. He never fought in school or stirred up any drama. He doesn’t drink alcohol.

“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 that 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 at $20 per car.

“When you’re in high school,” he said, “that’s a lot of money.”

Kie Kie saw in her partner a dedication to her and their son. That continued when the family of three moved south after Hank began classes at Miami.

“I always felt like I was lucky because I watched all my other friends that had children, 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

Story Continues →