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Meet London Fletcher

Hat Tip: PFT.

Fairly heavy reading in this Morning's Post on London Fletcher and his background. I went into the story knowing that he'd gone through hardship in life but the details damn near leveled me. I think reader(s) interested in one of the newest members of Your Washington Redskins should read the entire article (which is four pages long; prepare yourself) and so I won't steal the entire story. Let me simply say that Fletcher suffered through a tragic childhood and miraculously escaped a cycle of violence and drugs (he was raised in) thanks largely to altruism of others and Fletcher's own pertinacity. It's pretty heavy.

As this is a Football Blog (though I have enormous respect for what Fletcher has done in his personal life) I'd like to focus on the related Football news. The article paints a picture of a guy who was born to lead and succeed even while the world around him is so bleak. And the people who know him closest and who have aided him along the way all unanimously sing his praises:

But the most fortuitous event might have occurred his senior year when he decided to try out for football. The coach, John Storey, put him at linebacker and running back. And on the first play of the first practice scrimmage, Fletcher took a handoff, burst through the line and ran 80 yards for a touchdown.

That he would be a natural football player was not a surprise to many people. Even Isaac and Moran had been telling him he was too aggressive for basketball. Moran would watch him on the court, pushing defenders, struggling to fit within the confines of the game and believed he needed a bigger field.

After finally giving up Basketball to focus on Football at John Caroll University, Fletcher was ready to move on to a life after Collegiate (or Professional) Sports. London Fletcher was not drafted:
Then the St. Louis Rams called.

After his first Rams minicamp, it was clear he had won over Vermeil, the team's coach. "I love the underdog," Vermeil said.

By the end of training camp the player who was considered the most outlandish of possibilities was not only a regular on the Rams' special teams, he was the special teams captain.

Speaking of Vermeil and Underdogs, remember that it was Vermeil, as the Head Coach of the Eagles, who gave bartender Vince Papale a chance to play in the NFL, a story made famous by the movie Invincible.

Dick Vermeil on Fletcher's leadership:

"He's just a natural leader," Vermeil said. "I think initially it's by example and then it's by presence. He has tremendous self-confidence. He can influence people in the locker room."

A year later, Fletcher was starting for a team that won the Super Bowl, prompting Vermeil to declare that whatever quarterback Kurt Warner meant to the St. Louis offense, Fletcher meant to the defense.

And Gregg Williams:
"He was the man of his house at 12 years of age. I've got a pretty good feeling that at 32 years old he can hold this defense together."
Finally, because you guys know I'm a sucker for such things:
A few years ago, he started his own foundation and made Isaac the director. He wants it to give scholarships much the way Schwartz and Kramer provided money for his schooling. The foundation also has funded the distribution of bicycles and worked to fix up local parks.
As far as I can tell, that's the London's Bridge Foundation, mentioned here when, last December, Fletcher was named the Buffalo Bills Walter Payton Man of the Year (for the second consecutive time):
Fletcher-Baker coordinates many of these programs through the London's Bridge Foundation, its purpose is to bond and build young lives through education, communication and encouraging youth to aspire to the highest potential in life. Early in 2006, they established a college preparation program for high school seniors. As part of the program the 50 students from Cleveland public high schools attend SAT and ACT preparatory classes, courses on financial aid, and the students are assisted with college visits. The first, of what he hopes will be many, college scholarships were awarded this year to three high school seniors. Each received $1,500 towards their college tuition.