Playing Against Stigma

Lamarius and Monica Kinslow. Courtesy photo.

Lamarius and Monica Kinslow. Courtesy photo.

The critics in his circle counted him out before he had the chance to get in the ring of life. The Sheppard Square community was a troubling atmosphere around the young man, issuing the thought that he would simply be a product of his environment. To augment this stigma, Lamarius Kinslow battled the inner demons of insecurity and the lack of self-confidence.

When football came into his life, it became an outlet to release emotional baggage and stood as a platform to grow in maturity. Now as a senior wide receiver and linebacker at Fern Creek High School, he asserts that football has kept him focused and given him a channel to exemplify leadership. “I depend on [football] to help me focus on my schoolwork more and in growing up,” he says. “A lot of players look up to me, and that makes me a better football player.”

Kinslow flipped the script on what skeptics said his life would be. Growing up, he admits to having strong anger issues. But by striving in the right direction every day, he now experiences that which is at the opposite end of the spectrum from his previous anger: joy.

He has been a monster for the Tigers this season, leading them with 38 receptions, 669 yards and 10 touchdowns. On the defensive side, he has totaled 91 tackles and recovered two fumbles through 11 games, being at the helm of an 11-1 record for Fern Creek.

Head coach for the Tigers, Joshua Abell, has been amazed in how far the young man has come. “The cliche of, ‘It takes a village to raise child’ – I don’t think it applies to anyone more than this kid. This is a kid that had major anger and emotional issues when he first came to Fern Creek.” Abell referenced a comment made by a DeSales coach on Kinslow who said, “The amazing thing about him is that he will knock the hell out of you, and then he’ll go and pick you up.”

Lamarius didn’t become the great young man and stud athlete that he is today by pure will alone. Rather, it has been a strong and loving support system around him. When Kinslow was a young boy, his mother passed away. While dealing with this emotional fragmentation, his mother’s sister, Monica Kinslow, stepped in, picked up his brokenness and worked to put him back together through her tender loving care.

“She took me up under her wings, and I have been listening to her ever since then. She has always been there for me, and I love her for that,” said Lamarius about his aunt.

What’s so intriguing is that Aunt Monica, also known as “Aunt Monnie” by the Fern Creek football team, got custody of Lamarius and his five other siblings when they were young. You put that with three children of her own, her mother and a friend’s son all under her roof, and she certainly earned the title of “Momma” from the Tigers.

When asked why the 34-year-old took on the responsibility still at a young age, she simply said, “I wanted to keep him out of the system. I didn’t want him to be in foster care. I didn’t want him and his brothers and sisters separated, so I decided to take them all in.

“As a little girl, my grandmother and my aunts always said I had an old soul. So I think that has a lot to do with it and by the grace of God. I have to give it all to God because without him, honestly, I wouldn’t be able to do this. He gives me the strength.”

Since then, Lamarius has been a huge asset at the Kinslow home. When he is not dominating the competition in football, he is assisting at home by helping Monica with her mother, being a respectful young man and setting the example to his other siblings.

Aunt Monica says she has been so pleased with Lamarius and his growth. “He always stays humble,” she affirms. “No matter what the situation is, and no matter how much people boast and brag about him, he always stays humble. He is all in all a great kid. He is maintaining his grades; he is respectful, and he is lovable. Who can’t love him? He is a wonderful kid.”

Kinslow, who has overcome so much in such a short time, has a lot to look forward to. He has verbally committed to Western Kentucky University and aspires to play one day in the NFL. The stigma has certainly been broken in his life, and others will be patiently waiting to hear the story of how this Fern Creek senior got the eye of the Tiger. VT