Holy Name running back Shakif Seymour’s past has taught him lessons for football: Evening off the Field

By Stephanie Kuzydym, Northeast Ohio Media Group on September 11, 2014 12:15 p.m.


Holy Name running back Shakif Seymour laughs at his running backs coach during a light Wednesday workout. Seymour scored six touchdowns in Week 2 against Normandy. (Stephanie Kuzydym, Northeast Ohio Media Group)

PARMA HEIGHTS, Ohio – Water dripped down the sides of Shakif Seymour’s face. He wanted to make sure he wasn’t late for his post-practice workout and interview. He wasn’t. He was early, but he came out to introduce himself in his shower sandals before running back in the locker room to grab his Air Jordans.

It was Wednesday night, which means weightlifting for the Holy Name junior running back and Green Wave running back coach Jake Simon, better known as his buddy. The two work side-by-side, crunch-for-crunch, lift-for-lift through a workout at least three times a week.

Simon said the 6-foot-1, 210 pound star running back doesn’t know his own strength yet and Seymour just smiled. He may not max out but he knows his goals and he knows his place. It stems from three things his mom taught him: stay humble, work hard and eventually everything will be OK, even when it’s not.

That last one is most important. Seymour hasn’t run from his past. He’s learned from it.

The Northeast Ohio Media Group spent an evening with Seymour away from football on Wednesday as part of a regular series that gets to know area athletes and coaches and their lives away from the field.

He grew up on the South Side of Chicago in a neighborhood called Englewood. It has one of the highest crime rates in the country and a declining population to go with it.

Teishua Lawrence wanted to give her son the best chance to succeed so at age 10 she moved her family to Cleveland because an uncle told her it was nice here. She signed Seymour up for muny league football.

Had he stayed in Chicago, he would probably be a student at Simeon. That’s the high school where his favorite basketball player, Derrick Rose, went. It’s also the high school where basketball phenom Ben “Benji” Wilson was shot to death as a senior.

In sixth and seventh grade, Seymour realized he’d have to focus on his grades if he wanted to go to college. He was named valedictorian of his eighth grade class. Then he had to find a high school where he felt he could succeed, as well as where he felt comfortable.

He chose Holy Name, where math, especially geometry, and any kind of history are what he thrives on.

“I actually like doing homework,” he said. “Studying is the hard part.”

But if it’s hard, if it will test him, if it will teach him a lesson, Seymour will put his dedicated work ethic into it.

On Tuesday night, after practice and a radio gig at the Hooley House with his teammates, he headed home to make dinner and then study for three tests. He was up until 1 a.m.

By 6:35 p.m. on Wednesday, Seymour was in his most relaxed place: the weight room. He did pull-ups and benched the bar of the bench press with a resistance band wound around the end to make it more difficult. Back and forth, Seymour and Simon trudged across the weight room to work out as many different muscles. Game day was approaching – Holy Name (1-1) plays Valley Forge on Friday at North Royalton – so the workout was light.

“I can do this and still smile about it afterward,” Seymour said. “This is cake.”

His trips to the end zone last Friday could be described a similar way. Against Normandy, Seymour found the end zone six times, or in his words he “smelled it.”

Those are the words that go through his head when he touches the ball “smell the end zone.”

But the first words that fill his head when he hits the field? Lead the team.

“If I start off well, they start off well,” he said.

Seymour rushed for 281 yards last week. In two games he has 313 yards on 27 carries and five touchdowns. He has also caught eight passes for 99 yards and two scores.

All of his work is drawing interesting from Division I schools. Last season, he rushed for nearly 1,000 yards while scoring 16 touchdowns.

Before the first snap of games, the four Green Wave running backs gather in a prayer group. One running back who is assigned says the prayer for the week. Then each running back says his intentions so they know each other better. Then they recite two more prayers, Our Father and a Hail Mary. His mom has always told him “God will fix everything, good or bad.”

She’s a single parent who has raised Shakif, his older sister Nikia, 18, and his younger brothers Jahad, 15, and Louis, 12. His dad hasn’t been in the picture since he was 4.

“She’s my role model,” Seymour said of his mother. “She pushed so hard to change everything.”

To this day, she reminds him of things like hard work and “stay in the books.”

His books could be filled with his drawings. Beyond football, it’s what he loves most. Had he stayed in Chicago, he said he would have probably gone to an art school, but now he wants to major in business. He wants gain a scholarship so his mom doesn’t have to pay for his school and then get a good education so he can make money so his mom doesn’t have to work as hard anymore. She’s done her job. Now, he wants it to be his turn.

Well, Plan A is actually to become an NFL player.

“That’s the dream,” he said.

Plan B is to become a businessman who takes care of his family, makes money and is there for his kids. As a leader he has learned when one works hard, it pushes others to work hard.

During Wednesday’s interview he didn’t bring up the six touchdowns. When asked about the accomplishment he brought up one of those three lessons from his mom: work hard.

“I’ve got to lead the team,” he said. “They’re looking up to me. I scored six touchdowns, but they’re still looking to me to do more. I can’t just settle for what I did. They want to see the best out of me and I want to see the best out of my teammates so we have to bring it out of each other.”

Because if there’s anything the past has taught him it’s this: Good or bad, in the end, everything will be OK.

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