For Senat, football is his family
Turned to game after his mom's death.
IMMOKALEE — Thanksgiving is a time to share a laugh with relatives. Break bread with cousins. Talk football with uncles. Share your thanks with your parents.
Immokalee’s Deadrin Senat will be on the football field during the holiday, practicing defensive schemes and two-point stances. He’ll be knocking helmets with his Immokalee High teammates. They are part of his family, too. They have been since he was 14 years old.
Just before his freshman year, Deadrin lost a big part of his family after his mother, Judy Senat, died from medical complications as a result of a spider bite. She was 45 years old.
“Out of nowhere, she just fell. We called an ambulance, we rushed to the hospital and that was it. She was gone,” Senat explained. “After that happened, our whole family just fell apart. None of us were together. I didn’t see my brother anymore. He went in and out of jail. My sister moved out of the house. I wasn’t with anybody. My dad would talk to me a little bit and tell me to keep my head up, preach to me a little bit, but that was all.”
After her death, Deadrin could very easily have given in to the negative emotions. He could have let the hatred, regret or depression consume him. He could have made the wrong choices, done the wrong things, followed the wrong path just as his brother had. But his mother didn’t raise him like that.
He doesn’t dwell on the things in his life that have been negative, he dwells on the positive and he uses that to try and help everyone else out.
Immokalee football coach Jerrod Ackley
“My mom always wanted me to succeed in life. She wanted the best for me. I just didn’t see that until she passed away,” Senat, now 17, said. “I was her little baby. When she was alive, all we did was spend time with each other.”
Instead, the soft-spoken young man found solace in his family, his sister Manaika in particular. He also found another family on the football field and within the community surrounding it. It became both his outlet and his support system.
“I started playing football my freshman year. It took up all my time and kept my mind off things,” Senat said.
“People on the outside don’t know and Deadrin doesn’t talk about those things but the coaches and the teammates and the people that know Deadrin very well know how much that he works to overcome things in life and how he tries to make everyone else’s life better,” Indians coach Jerrod Ackley said. “He doesn’t dwell on the things in his life that have been negative, he dwells on the positive and he uses that to try and help everyone else out.”
'A BIG POWERFUL TEDDY BEAR'
Photo by DAVID ALBERS // Buy this photo
At 6-foot-2, 300-pounds, Deadrin is a brutal and imposing presence on the football field. With quick feet and tremendous upper body strength he has the raw tools that make Division I college scouts drool. His own coach called him the “perfect run-stopping machine.”
“He is a big athletic guy, very strong. When Deadrin decides to take over games, he takes over games. He has the potential to be the best there is,” said Ackley of the junior.
“When he steps out onto the football field he never really says that much, he just gets after it,” Immokalee defensive coordinator Allen Williams said.
But once the hulking defensive lineman steps away from the field, it becomes difficult to imagine that such a polite young man can be capable of the aggression he displays when he breaks through an offensive line in pursuit of an opposing quarterback or the violent tendencies shown toward an unfortunate ball carrier. He is a polite and well-mannered young man — an increasing rarity for his generation. He credits his mom for that one.
“When you see Deadrin play football you would never guess what kind of person he was off the field,” Ackley said. “Deadrin’s greatest asset is his personality. He is a guy that’s fun to be around. His teammates love him, his classmates love him, his teachers love him. The entire community loves Deadrin.”
“He’s a big, powerful teddy bear. That’s what he is,” said his pastor, Homer Betancourt.
TAKING THE RIGHT PATH
With a population just under 20,000 people, the town of Immokalee is a close-knit community. It is also a community that has garnered a reputation, sometimes deservedly so, as a place where it is far too easy to fall into the wrong path. Even by his own admission, Senat was likely heading down that path as an adolescent. He fought. He caused trouble. He did the kind of things that would make a parent ashamed.
“I always thought I could do what everyone else is doing. Live the wrong life, a bad life. Stay out late and not follow rules,” admitted Senat. “When I was young, I was kind of a bad kid and disrespected people a little bit.”
It took the death of his mother for him to realize that he was going to have to grow up in a hurry. It took an entire community to help him do just that.
“After she passed, it hit me. I said ‘I got to do something,’” Senat said. “I told myself I need to change for the better and a lot of people around here were helping me like Homer Betancourt and Coach Izzy (former Immokalee coach Israel Gallegos). I felt loved and once I felt loved I just started clicking with them.”
Betancourt is given much of the credit for Senat’s ability to stay on the right path.
“He’s been staying with us for a while. My kids love him. They call him their older brother,” Betancourt said. “He’s a real good Christian kid. He doesn’t miss too many services.”
“I think it is a tribute to the community how they have adopted Deadrin and they take care of him no matter where they go. If Deadrin is down on his luck, for whatever reason, there are numerous people there to pick him up. When he needs a place to stay, there are several people who take him into their house, take care of him, feed him, and do all the things they need to do,” Ackley said.
“I think it is very important for the community to help out. That’s what these kids need when they don’t really have father figures,” said friend and trainer Tony Navarro. “We do it because we want him to become somebody.”
“Thank God there are a lot of members of this community that care about these kids and help them out the best that we can,” added Betancourt.
The holidays can be a tough for anyone, let alone for someone who has lost a parent. Senat’s coaches and teammates have helped him fill that void.
“I spend almost every day with (my teammates). We go through a lot with each other. Not a day goes by where I don’t get a phone call from my friends,” said Senat. “We just family.”
“That brotherhood that we have, that all of us have as a team, is because we have known each other for the longest so we started to have a bond with each other, ” said friend and fellow lineman Kirby Henry. “If someone gets hurt we feel the pain that they are going through.”
“In Immokalee, we are in a unique situation. We have people like Deadrin and people like him who, for whatever reason, have had a lot of adversity to overcome in life. They have each other to lean on and so the football team is very, very close as a family,” Ackley said. “The team really has each other’s backs. The players on the team care for each other a great deal.”
For his part, Deadrin has made it easy for his team and community to embrace him. His character makes it effortless to root for him.
He does good in football and he is going to be a major D-I prospect but what makes me more proud is his character as a man.
Homer Betancourt, Senat's pastor
“He’s not one of these kids that if something comes up in his life, he going to blame everyone else,” said Williams. “He’s going to take on the adversity, he’s going to hit it head on, he’s going to meet the challenge and he’s going to move on and I think that is what makes him a special person.”
“We just love him. It makes me proud that he isn’t headed down the wrong path anymore and that he is headed in the right direction,” Betancourt said. “He does good in football and he is going to be a major D-I prospect but what makes me more proud is his character as a man.”
“Deadrin walks around with a smile on his face. He treats everyone with respect. He cares for everyone greatly. Deadrin is just a fine young man,” Ackley added.
And when Senat needed help the most, his team and the community surrounding it came to his side. That is what tight-knit communities do. Deadrin remains humbled by that. He is appreciative of that. He is thankful for that.
“I’m happy now. I do what I was supposed to do and stay out of trouble. I read the Bible every night and I pray that my mother is in a better place,” Senat said. “Being with my friends makes it easier. I still cry at times at night missing her. I see my dad and he is very unhappy without her. It hurts. It still hurts to this day. If she was here today I would tell her how much I love her. That’s something I feel I didn’t do enough. I think I took those things for granted.”
Today, most of us will be gathered around with family, watching sports and sharing laughs and green bean casseroles. Deadrin Senat will be on the football field, knocking helmets, practicing defensive schemes and two-point stances.
That’s his family, too.