A better day, a clearer future High schools: With the help of the Lewis family and the support of Wilde Lake's coaching staff, Danny Bayron has turned his life around.

November 04, 1998|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Wilde Lake's Danny Bayron is familiar with highs and lows.

The All-Metro football player knows the joy of winning a state championship, the pride of a 1,000-yard rushing season and the fiendish glee of making a school-record 24 tackles in a single game.

The rugged running back and strong safety also has felt the loneliness of leaving home at 15, the degradation of multiple juvenile arrests and the misery of nearly overdosing on drugs.

These days, Bayron flashes an infectious, beguiling smile. He has reason to smile. Life is good right now for Bayron, or "Sparky," as the 5-foot-10, 205-pound senior is known to his friends.

His football team is 8-1 and has a chance to win another state championship this season. Pretty girls come up to congratulate him after games. And although he'd be the first person in his family to attend college, he's doing so well academically that he has been recruited by universities as prestigious as Princeton.

Three years ago, his life was strikingly different.

He was a troubled, restless 15-year-old from the Bronx, N.Y. His numerous scrapes with the law included arrests for drug possession, stealing, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer, he said.

Ostensibly to escape his unsavory friends, Bayron left his family and moved to Maryland in August 1995.

"He was only supposed to be leaving for three weeks," said his mother, Delores. "I had enrolled him in St. Helena's Business School. Letting him go was the hardest thing I ever did, but he convinced me he needed a vacation."

Bayron's real intentions were to hang out, find the wildest parties and experience life in the fast lane away from home, he said.

At first, he lived with a New York friend in an Arbutus house with two hard-core drug addicts. Three days after arriving, he almost overdosed. "I was using crystal meth, weed, coke, mushrooms, beer -- a little of everything," he said.

"That was the worst day of my life," said Bayron, who survived without medical treatment. "When I went to open a door, everything turned white and I passed out. When I woke up, I had a lump on my head and knew I had fallen."

The episode scared him.

Two weeks later, he met a girl at a party. Deborah Lewis helped him, going so far as to ask her parents to let him live with them so he could straighten himself out. Three months later, they said yes.

"Taking him in was a hard decision," said Ron Lewis. "We agonized over it. My daughter asked us to look out for him, and we trusted her. She told us that he was a good kid and that all he needed was a chance."

"I love them like a family," Bayron said. "They gave me a chance to slowly come back. I cleaned myself up. I was lucky to fall into a situation like this."

Football was the lure

Deborah's mother, Sachiko, helped persuade Bayron to return to school in February 1996. He had dropped out after playing football his freshman year at Cardinal Spellman, a Catholic high school in New York.

Football was the lure that brought him back to school.

"I loved football so much," said Bayron, who played youth league football in the Bronx. "I knew I'd never play again if I kept going the way I was. If it wasn't for football, I'd still have the urge to do something [drugs]."

Ron Lewis and Delores Bayron signed papers that allowed him to attend Howard County schools on a hardship basis without paying tuition, the Lewises said.

The Lewises live in Dorsey Search, an upscale middle-class neighborhood in Ellicott City. A 1995 redistricting meant Bayron would attend economically and ethnically diverse Wilde Lake, where the football program had produced five state championship teams, and the coach, Doug DuVall, had a history of helping to turn around troubled youth through the discipline of football.

"The coaches are good people to be around," Bayron said. "Coach DuVall and Coach [Mike] Harrison are there if I ever need them. And Coach [Scott] Swope really got my self-confidence and self-esteem up."

DuVall said: "If sport is ever good, this is what it should be able to do."

Bayron played mainly on special teams as a sophomore, but was the Howard County Defensive Player of the Year last season, when he made 97 tackles. He also rushed for 1,055 yards and 17 touchdowns.

"He played so hard I thought he was going to implode," DuVall said. "He's playing tremendously again defensively, and offensively we plan to use him a lot more during the playoffs because he's such a tough runner.

"He's a warrior, the spark that causes us to win. He throws great blocks and really rips people. And teachers love him because he's a hard worker."

Although he is his team's spark plug, Bayron actually received his nickname, "Sparky," from a classroom incident. He bet someone he could stick a paper clip into a hanging electric socket during shop class.

"I had done it once when I was a little kid and nothing happened," Bayron said. This time, the resulting shock blew him off his chair and melted the plastic around the socket.

Making a difference

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