Extending his field of vision

Terps football: Domonique Foxworth is an All-American cornerback candidate who earned his degree in three years. Plus, his aspirations to help people go far beyond the game.

College Football

August 11, 2004|By Kevin Van Valkenburg | Kevin Van Valkenburg,SUN STAFF

COLLEGE PARK -- What do you want to talk about? Football? Maryland's chances at a fourth straight 10-win season? Sure, Domonique Foxworth can do that.

He can tell you anything you need to know about the 2004 Terps, about what it's like to be an all-conference cornerback, about how it feels to be a leader on a team that's finally getting some national respect. He's happy to give you his take on Maryland's quarterback competition, and if asked, he'll even (reluctantly) talk about conference expansion.

But if you want to see his eyes light up, if you want to have an actual dialogue with Foxworth, ask him about politics. Ask him about what it's like to be young and black in America. Ask him, if you get a chance, about his plans to change the world. And if you still want to talk football, no problem. He's game. Just understand that there is a lot more to Foxworth than interceptions and end-zone celebrations.

"Domonique could run for governor someday and he could win," says Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen, whose team begins preseason camp today. "He's that kind of kid."

Unique is one way to put it, and driven would be another, but even then, those labels aren't a perfect fit for this senior All-America candidate. After all, you don't try to pigeonhole a football player who watches CNN in his spare time, as Foxworth does. You don't haul out the stereotypes about college jocks and their sometimes indifferent attitude toward school, especially when you realize he needed just three years to earn his degree in American studies.

What is clear is that Foxworth is the rare breed of college athlete who would rather be recognized and defined by the things he does off the field than the things he does on it.

He had every opportunity to jump to the NFL after last season, and could have done so with degree in hand. And yet, he stayed, mostly for one reason: He felt college still had more to offer him.

"If you're an athlete today, like it or not, people are going to see you as a role model," says Foxworth, a three-year starter. "With that type of power comes a great amount of responsibility. But being a leader is something I've always felt comfortable with. That's just who I am."

Leadership, in Foxworth's opinion, is about more than leading the conference in passes broken up, which he did in 2002. Need proof? Last spring, while he was preparing to write a 20-page paper for one of his classes on the "positive and negative effects of subliminal marketing in the black community," Foxworth decided to form his own youth mentoring program. With the help of his girlfriend, Erin Valenti, he named the program Students Taking Action For the Future (STAFF), and then arranged for eight youngsters, all from a low-income Washington neighborhood, to spend the day with a Maryland football player.

Foxworth and his teammates took the kids to class, taught them lessons about time management, and tried to act as role models, if only for a day.

"When I was with them, I asked all the kids what they wanted to be when they grew up," Foxworth says. "Every one of those little boys said they wanted to be either a rapper, or a basketball player. I was just trying to counter that by showing them there are other ways to succeed, but it's a battle because those are the images they see on TV. ... It's hard. It's something we're constantly fighting in the black community. We need positive role models.

"At the same time, they see me as an athlete, so I wonder sometimes if I'm contributing to the problem."

An epiphany

Foxworth, who is contemplating pursuing a second degree in journalism this fall, doesn't hesitate to hand out credit when he gets questions about his maturity or his focus. "I owe my parents everything," he says. "They're the lone reason I'm the person that I am."

Karen and Lorinzo Foxworth -- who own their own business and travel around the country giving motivational seminars to help companies reach their peak potential -- taught Domonique and their older son Dion that the most important lessons in life are not always the easy ones.

When Foxworth was 14 years old, he begged his mother to let him get a summer job. He had done Tiger Scouts, been on the middle school debate team and played Pop Warner football growing up, but he had not yet had a job. Karen Foxworth was thrilled her son wanted to work, so she drove him up to Camp Greentop, a camp in Sabillasville, Frederick County, for people with special needs. He would work there as a counselor for three weeks. Foxworth didn't know exactly what he was getting into, outside the fact that it paid $600, which in his opinion, made the perfect summer gig.

The first day I'm there, I get assigned to look after an autistic kid who's about 8 years old," Foxworth says. "For the whole first week, I had to help him do everything, from eating to going to the bathroom. Everything. He was completely my responsibility."

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