Sitting in the office preparing for “The End Zone” at Sneakers Sports Grill last night, one of the managers, Colleen, told me about a young boy who was already in the audience. “He’s here as the guest of the Jaguars Boosters. He’s from “Make-a-Wish and has a terminal illness. Apparently he was supposed to go to the game yesterday but something got screwed up. He actually wanted to just meet Fred Taylor, and by chance, Fred’s coming tonight. Could you ask Fred if he could just stop by and say hi to him?”
(As a guide, I don’t ask the players to do anything special on the Monday night show. I try to make it easy for them, and if they can sign autographs afterwards, that’s great, if not, no problem.) But I thought this was an exception, and asked Fred, Donovin Darius and Marlon McCree if they wouldn’t mind this one detour. Luckily, we had three guys on this week that didn’t even flinch and said they’d be happy to. I sent the players out about ten minutes before show time to meet with the teenager in the game room.
When I walked to the set, all three were chatting with him, and Fred was sitting in a chair next to him with his arm around him. When I introduced the players to the rather large audience, Fred lingered with his newfound friend for a few seconds, and then came out to thunderous applause. We went on with the show, and all three stuck around to sign autographs for about 20 minutes afterwards.
I was sitting with a few of my friends who came to the show, and saw Fred lingering in the back room, joking around with some people I couldn’t see. I went to investigate, and found Fred with the young man, joking, play punching each other, laughing and grabbing like a couple of old friends. I went back to my seat, but kept an eye on Fred, who continued the meeting for about 45 more minutes, sitting, standing, whatever guys do when they’re standing around being guys. When it was finally time to go, the two new friends clearly didn’t want it to end, they hugged, then hugged again, and again, and finally punched each other, the universal “get out of here” sign. I didn’t hear any of the conversation, but saw every minute of the meeting. That was enough to see Fred make a kid’s dream come true.
I’ve known Fred since he was in High School in Belle Glade, so I’ve seen him go through a lot of his adult personal life and his professional career. It’s not often that we have a chance to see “real life” in action, but last night was one of those times. So, thanks Fred.