- Associated Press - Sunday, May 18, 2014

SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Words never have come easily to Javonte Magee.

The mammoth Baylor and former Sam Houston defensive lineman keeps a lifetime of turmoil bottled up, tucking his emotions inside as tightly as a drum.

His uncommon football talents made him one of the most celebrated Greater San Antonio high school football players in recent history, a four-star recruit who was one of the most widely recruited players in the nation when he came out of high school in 2012.

However, he hasn’t always been emotionally equipped to handle that acclaim or all of life’s challenges.

His navigation has been helped by his adoptive mother, Mary Griffin, who has raised Magee since she rescued him from a New Orleans crack house when he was only 3 weeks old.

On Mother’s Day Magee was in Waco studying for spring final exams, but his thoughts weren’t far from the woman he credits with convincing him to return to school after a mysterious disappearance last summer that jeopardized his football career.

His departure came during summer two-a-day practices after he was moved to defensive tackle from defensive end, where he had played most of his career.

“Some people were blaming it on my girl, or that I didn’t want to play defensive tackle or this and that,” he told the San Antonio Express-News (http://bit.ly/1gFniBk). “But they really didn’t know the real reason.

“I blame myself for making it worse because I didn’t communicate with anybody.”

Whatever concerns might have been bouncing through Magee’s head, Griffin knew he needed to go back to school to fulfill the immense promise of his burgeoning career.

“I knew in order for him to do what he needed to, he needed to stay back in Waco,” Griffin said. “I prayed about it and I’m glad he’s back there.”

Griffin, 63, remembers the first time she saw Magee, a malnourished infant who appeared doomed because of his surroundings. Rats were crawling nearby, a memory that still causes her to tear up more than 20 years later.

“If somebody didn’t step up, that little boy wasn’t going to make it,” Griffin said. “I’m glad I could be the one to help out because I love my baby.”

She still remembers his big eyes, his soft curly black hair and his swollen belly the first time she saw him. And she can still hear his “little whiny voice” that finally subsided when she took him home to eat for the first time.

Because of the circumstances of his birth, there always was concern about the little boy contracting hepatitis. Every time Magee was treated for a childhood illness, Griffin remembers bracing for the worst as a doctor checked his progress before giving him a clean bill of health.

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