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FORT WAYNE, Ind. - This is a story about a young man and a coach, both of whom have had to grow up faster than either would care to admit.
It’s a story about hard realties in urban America.
It’s about life.
Daniel Olds is a senior at North Side – the third high school that he’s attended in the past four years – who enjoys just about everything when it comes to playing football for the Legends.
Mike Brevard is his mentor – still yet to find that elusive win as a head coach in his second year at North – who got into the profession to help young men like Daniel.
Together, they toil in the hot sun outside Chambers Field, working toward a better day for the team and for themselves.
It wasn’t long ago when Olds was living in a car with his father, trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy.
North Side runningback Daniel Olds (courtesy John Otto/GameNight Magazine)
“I stayed in a car for about a week and a half,” Olds recalled. “That’s when I moved in with a friend. I probably missed about 70 percent of my junior year because I didn’t have a way to get (to school). When we were in a car, I didn’t have my clothes either, which were back at my (previous) home.”
This past summer during conditioning sessions at North Side, Olds’ normally reliable attendance suddenly became intermittent at best. He was struggling to get a ride most days, and his confidence began to wane.
“I started thinking, ‘I’m not good enough,’ and stopped going,” he said. “Coach B (Brevard) rang me up and said, ‘Where you at?’ He talked to me about two hours that night, (telling) me where I could be if I kept pushing myself. I came back that following day and haven’t missed since, unless I was getting checkups on my stomach.”
His “stomach,” as Olds puts it, has been another hurdle in his young life. Diagnosed with a painful hernia on his left side, he underwent laparoscopic surgery two years ago, which sidelined him for his sophomore season. “When they went in (for surgery), they made my digestive system too small for food to go down,” he recalled. “I lost a lot of weight and I didn’t know if I could get back healthy or not.”
Olds, a 175-pound running back, is back healthy and contributing for the Legends who, despite their 19-game losing streak, appear to be one of the area’s most improved teams from a year ago. He’s bigger, faster and stronger than he was post-surgery, and his infectious energy is something that his teammates rally around.
North Side runningback Daniel Olds, white jersey, takes a handoff during a Legends practice (photo by Lindsey Foust/Parkview Sports Medicine)
“Danny is an amazing teammate,” said senior lineman Landon Clark. “He always brings energy and makes things competitive. Me being one of his offensive linemen, I have a different relationship with him than most. I’ll do anything for him. I will leave it all on the line for Danny because I know he would do the same for me. Especially with the way he runs; he’s a tough, downhill back and us offensive linemen feed off that.
“We love Danny and he shows us all that no matter what is going on in our lives, football can be our escape. A lot of people would say, ‘Screw it,’ facing what he has faced, but I never see Danny not give everything he’s got.”
What he’s got is total admiration from his teammates and coaches. Plus a love for the game of football. It’s that mutual love and respect which have helped Olds overcome the obstacles.
“Football is his escape,” said Brevard, who also had a turbulent adolescent experience before football created a pathway to something more stable. “He is a different person on the field. Outside of football you really are unsure what environment is he walking into today. He texted me one morning to come get him because he was kicked out. Countless times he will text me and state how he cannot wait for practice because of those very reasons.
“I do not believe Daniel would be playing football (if it wasn’t for North Side). So many times you see talented young men like Daniel who leave the game because they are forced to. His current living situation calls for him to be a man. Many kids leave practice and they go home, eat, do homework, and relax. Daniel goes home and works.”
It’s that work ethic – that drive to survive – that ultimately fuels Olds. In turn, he doesn’t want to let down the people who have shown belief in him.
“I never want (negative occurrences) to effect my inside,” he explained. “I didn’t want to use that as an excuse (in the past) because some people have gone through way more than I have. Sometimes I get down on myself; I can’t really help it when I get to thinking about something really hard. I get down on myself and get depressed, and I’ll ask God why did he put me through what I’m going through.
“Coming to North Side has been the best thing about my life so far. Coach B believed in me. They saw potential in me. I use that to fuel me. I don’t know if I’m good enough to even be here. But Coach B is always talking to me about keeping it going."
That’s because Brevard has been there and done that. He’s seen the other side, and he knows it’s not easy.
“I grew up rough – we were homeless – (and) my environment was filled with drugs,” Brevard said. “I had two childhood friends in Richmond, VA murdered when we were still in high school. I began playing football because a friend’s dad noticed me in the neighborhood. He would see me in the neighborhood when he would come home from football practice and he talked to my mom about (me) playing organized football with his son.
North Side head coach Mike Brevard (courtesy John Otto/GameNight Magazine)
"My mom did not own a car, and we did not have much, but he said he would take me to practice and to the games. When I joined (that team) it was like a big family. My coaches served as father figures; even now I can call one of my (former) football coaches up and we will pick up in conversation as if we never stopped talking.
North Side head coach Mike Brevard during his playing days at Saint Francis in 2014 (courtesy Aaron Suozzi/USF Athletics)
“I was blessed to have solid men in my life (back in Virginia), then at Ben Davis (High School in Indianapolis) and Saint Francis (here in Fort Wayne) that just cared about kids. We just happened to win (a lot) along the way. I tell the team all of the time: I do not care about the wins and losses; I care about changing your living situation and helping you become a man.”
Daniel Olds is one of those men.