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Washington's Elijah Qualls escaped drugs, violence for NFL shot - NFL Nation- ESPN
NFL NationChoose Blog...NFL NationAFC NorthBaltimore RavensCleveland BrownsCincinnati BengalsPittsburgh SteelersAFC SouthHouston TexansIndianapolis ColtsJacksonville JaguarsTennessee TitansAFC EastBuffalo BillsMiami DolphinsNew England PatriotsNew York JetsAFC WestDenver BroncosKansas City ChiefsOakland RaidersLos Angeles ChargersNFC NorthChicago BearsDetroit LionsGreen Bay PackersMinnesota VikingsNFC SouthAtlanta FalconsNew Orleans SaintsCarolina PanthersTampa Bay BuccaneersNFC EastDallas CowboysNew York GiantsPhiladelphia EaglesWashington RedskinsNFC WestArizona CardinalsLos Angeles RamsSan Francisco 49ersSeattle Seahawks Washington's Elijah Qualls survived 'pitbull block,' family turmoil in pursuit of NFL10dSheil KapadiaSaints don't need vintage Adrian Peterson for deal to make sense11hMike TriplettSeahawks still waiting to hear from Raiders on Marshawn Lynch13hBrady HendersonLanding Mike Gillislee continues Patriots' theme of 'known value'13hMike ReissBroncos not likely to upgrade offensive line through draft13hMichael KellyBills' loss of Mike Gillislee could be Jonathan Williams' gain13hMike RodakHere's what Jabrill Peppers' positive drug test means13hKevin SeifertDeMarcus Ware officially retires as a Cowboy15hTodd ArcherRedskins re-sign Will Compton, but might still add ILB in draft16hJohn KeimPatriots gain $4.75 million in cap space with Danny Amendola pay cut18hMike ReissJoe Flacco won't lobby Ravens to address holes on offense in draft22hJamison HensleySafety prospect Shalom Luani once scored in World Cup qualifier22hSheil KapadiaAaron Rodgers doesn't see guard as big need for Packers in draft22hRob DemovskyNFL players grab a data equalizer in era of wearable technology23hKevin SeifertPatriots will know if they get Bills RB Mike Gillislee by 4 p.m.1dMike ReissJ.J. Watt headlines Texans' best-ever draft picks2dSarah BarshopWashington's Elijah Qualls survived 'pitbull block,' family turmoil in pursuit of NFLFacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerEmailcommentApr 15, 2017Sheil KapadiaESPN Writer CloseCovered the Philadelphia Eagles for Philadelphia Magazine and Philly.com from 2008 to 2015.Covered the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL for BaltimoreSun.com from 2006 to 2008.Follow on TwitterFacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerPinterestEmailprintcommentSEATTLE -- Elijah Qualls buzzed around Dempsey Indoor Practice Facility, waiting for his turn to run through drills at Washington's pro day.With rapper Kevin Gates blaring through his headphones, Qualls paused often to joke with scouts and encourage teammates. He looked comfortable and engaged.As a junior, Elijah Qualls had 38 tackles and three sacks on a Washington team that made it to the College Football Playoff.Christopher Mast/Icon SportswireIt has been that way since he was 5 years old and his stepdad, DeJuan Miggins, first signed him up to play football. To say the game has come easy to Qualls would be a stretch. But to say it has come easier than everything else in his life would not.In a couple of weeks, Qualls, a 6-foot-1, 313-pound defensive tackle, will get a call from an NFL team -- likely in the middle rounds of the draft. It's a call he has been dreaming about for years, even as he was dodging bullets and trying to figure out if he had a place to sleep.Qualls remembers being excited when he made plans with his friends before that tragic weekend in 2010. It wasn't a special occasion or anything. They would just go to the park, hang out, crack jokes, flirt with girls. Qualls was a high school sophomore living in the Oak Park section of Sacramento, California.For some reason, Qualls can't remember why, plans changed. He decided to stay home that night. It might have been the most meaningful decision of his life. He later found out three of his friends had been shot and killed."The street that I grew up on, it was pitbull block," Qualls said. "Every single person had pitbulls because we had all the drug houses on our block. They used them all as security dogs https://www.dbacksshoponline.com/30-ketel-marte-jersey."Grew up around drugs, guns, grew up block boys, everything. Best friends dead, locked up or still in it. That was really just all I knew."It was common for Qualls to witness drug busts and be asked to ride his bike around the neighborhood to look out for cops. He remembers being 12 years old, playing basketball outside and hearing gunshots. He started running. Qualls got away, but one of his friends was hit and hospitalized.After the 2010 shooting, Miggins decided it was time to move Qualls out of Oak Park. He had been struggling in school (with a 1.5 GPA), and Miggins was concerned if Qualls and his other two sons, Dillon and Isaiah, stayed, they wouldn't have much of a future.Qualls' mom was an alcoholic and is not a part of his life. He has an "on and off" relationship with his biological dad.Miggins had been raised in Petaluma, California, and played high school football there. So he and the three boys packed up and went back to his hometown where they lived with his mother."My mom always said that if you live a violent life, you're going to die a violent death," Miggins said. "When I saw that his friends got shot up, I said, 'It's time to go. Because I don't want that to happen to you.'"Miggins, who was dealing with his own issues with alcohol in Sacramento, said he probably needed the change as much as Qualls."Me and his mom split up. It was just a time in my life where he saw me at the bottom," Miggins said. "But with God and strength and my parents making sure that I didn't fall, I turned my life around."Qualls recently showed Miggins texts from his childhood friends, many of whom Miggins had coached in youth football. They told Qualls they were happy for him, that they couldn't wait to see him get drafted and play in the NFL. They were excited someone got out."That was really sad that these boys are already thinking like that, and they haven't even started their lives yet," Miggins said. "If he would have stayed there, he would have been in trouble."Whether in Oak Park or Petaluma, Qualls always had people looking out for him.There was Miggins, who made the decision to move Qualls to Petaluma and is the only parent with whom he has a meaningful relationship."We're very hardened individuals," Qualls said. "We don't talk a lot. But I know he loves me. I really do. Just as much as he loves his own sons."There was his godbrother, Greg Babineaux, who always had his back when Qualls found himself in a messy situation.The only immediate draft plans for Elijah Qualls -- second from right, with Dillon, Alexis, and Isaiah -- include making sure his siblings are by his side when his name is called.Courtesy of DeJuan Miggins"He's locked up right now, and a lot of people look down on him," Qualls said. "But I swear to you, if it wasn't for him, he taught me how to fight, he taught me how to defend myself, he taught me how to survive. He was always there. I got jumped a couple times, and he was the only person that was there to keep those dudes off me. He was always there."And there was Trent Herzog, his football coach at Casa Grande High School who has served as a mentor, guiding Qualls through the recruiting and pre-draft processes.When Qualls first got onto the field at Casa Grande, he told Herzog he was a running back. Herzog didn't believe him."At the time, he was probably 265 pounds, and I was like, 'You look more like a guard to me,'" Herzog said. "And he's like, 'I'll show you, Coach.' We got a football out, he ran around a little bit and caught some passes. I said, 'You know what? This kid's right. He is a running back.'"Ten colleges recruited Qualls as a running back. Mike Riley, then the Oregon State head coach, told Qualls he reminded him of Steven Jackson.But Qualls did his research and decided his best chance for success was on the defensive line. They have longer careers than running backs, get injured less and make more money."I made a business decision," Qualls said. "Plus, I liked the challenge of it. I liked the idea of doing something different."While Qualls was thriving on the field, he struggled to adjust to other aspects of life in Petaluma, which was not at all like Oak Park. In Sacramento, he got into fights with kids who made fun of him for being light-skinned. In Petaluma, he was one of the only black kids in his school. He didn't understand why random strangers were saying hello to him, why friends and teachers kept encouraging him to let his guard down."I didn't always have to be on my toes and be aggressive and everything like that, waiting for the next person to try to test me," Qualls said. "It took me a while to relax, finally realize that no one there was actually trying to hurt me. I didn't have to worry about getting shot at. I didn't have to worry about if I went out, if I was going to get caught with a stray, or if somebody was going to go after me. I didn't have to worry about any of that."What Qualls did have to worry about was his grades. As a junior, he couldn't go to state wrestling because he didn't qualify academically.Growing up, he never considered college a possibility. But as schools started to aggressively recruit him, Qualls realized he needed to raise his grades if he was going to be able to play in college and, ultimately, the NFL."He said, 'I don't even know if I can do this. I don't think I have the grades. Coach says I can play in college, but I don't even know where to start,'" said Danielle Walker, who was Qualls' academic adviser in high school https://www.dbacksshoponline.com/6-andrew-chafin-jersey."He put in work. He was probably doing twice the work of most kids in his grade just because he had so much to overcome."Qualls earned a 3.0 grade point during the spring semester of his junior year as the scholarship offers poured in -- 38 in all.But as things were starting to come together on the field and in the classroom, Qualls' home life, living with Miggins' mom, remained unstable. She was old-school and clashed with Qualls on rules, curfew and religion."I was just somebody that was more liberal. I was a little more wild, too," Qualls said."If somebody in my circle Jimmie Sherfy Jersey, if they're wrong, I'm going to let you know. And it's as simple as that. I'm not afraid to have confrontation with somebody that I know. And she didn't like that."So Qualls wasn t always welcome at Miggins mom s house. Herzog, Walker and others welcomed him in when he needed somewhere to crash."A lot of people knew my situation, and they were cool with it," Qualls said. "Honestly, a lot of my true friends that I had were my family -- like my real family,"Even when he crammed his 285-pound body into the back seats of his friends' cars on some nights, Qualls said he maintained a clear vision of what he was chasing."Now," he said. "This is what I'd think about. Going to the NFL."Joey Parrick has a specific way of letting people know they are special to him Evan Marshall Jersey. Parrick, who has autism, creates Lego mini-figures of close friends and family.Qualls lived with Joey and the Parrick family for about six months during his senior year of high school. He and Peter Parrick were teammates.The Parrick family -- Bret, Peter, Joey, Rocky and Gillian -- can attest to the persistence of Elijah Qualls, third from right, in not allowing his troubled upbringing to be an obstacle while chasing his NFL dream.Courtesy of DeJuan MigginsWhen Qualls moved in, he and Joey instantly formed a bond."We had to special order a little, teeny-tiny Lego afro off of Ebay just so he could make Elijah," said Joey's mom, Rocky Parrick. "He put on a purple shirt for Washington. He always put him in a purple shirt and black pants and he had the black Lego. Whenever Elijah comes back to visit, Joey always gets it out. He was always just so sweet with him."The description of sweet would probably surprise those who have competed against Qualls in college. As a junior, he had 38 tackles (five for loss) and three sacks, earning first-team All-Pac 12 recognition on a Huskies team that made it to the College Football Playoff.Qualls had never put his hand in the dirt in high school. In addition to running back, he lined up at linebacker and rushed the passer off the edge. In the NFL, Qualls projects as a nose tackle or a three-technique in a 4-3 scheme.He admits when he puts on his helmet, it reignites a rage inside him that has been present ever since Qualls was a young boy in Oak Park."I was an angry kid," Qualls admitted."I was angry from home. I was angry from society. I was just mad all the time. And football was a productive way to channel that."He pauses and starts laughing as if he has just realized something https://www.dbacksshoponline.com/19-enrique-burgos-jersey."It was crazy to me. Because you can really get mad and hurt somebody in football and be praised for it. It's really insane."Those who have been around Qualls -- Herzog, Walker, Rocky Parrick -- maintain he rarely talked about his circumstances at home or used them as an excuse."Dudes that were selling drugs and stuff like that, they wouldn't let me get into trouble because every time that they saw a dumb idea might cross my mind, they would put me back in check and be like, 'You can do something better,'" Qualls said. "So while everybody sees growing up in the hood as a bad thing, honestly, I don't think I would have made it if I didn't grow up there. It made me who I am."I've never had anything stable in my life besides football. So I just ran with it. Kept my head down, kept pushing and did whatever I needed to, to make it doing this."FacebookTwitterFacebook MessengerEmailcommentSponsored Headlines Comments ABOUT COOKIES We use cookies to offer an improved online experience. By clicking "OK" without changing your settings you are giving your consent to receive cookies.

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