Where the Streets Are Making a Name

Some professional athletes let it be known when they give back to the community. Not Tai Streets. The Chicago native and NFL wide receiver gives back with more than just dollars - he gives his time to make sure overlooked kids in Chicago get a fair shot.

When he walks into the gym, few, if any, know who he is and that his resume includes hauling in touchdown receptions of 53- and 58-yards in Michigan's 21-16 victory against Washington State in the 1997 Rose Bowl to give the Wolverines a share of the national title.

That's because Tai Streets, who signed with the Detroit Lions as a free agent after spending the first five seasons of his NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers, does things unlike many professional athletes.

With little to no fanfare.

Streets started up the Meanstreets program out of Chicago four years ago when his former AAU coach, Ron Newquist, was telling his former player that he had too many kids in his program.

``We were out bowling and he had a dilemma," Streets recalls. "He was going to have to cut some guys because he just had too many kids."

Streets, coming off his second season with the 49ers, called his childhood buddy, Carlton DeBose, and decided to start the Meanstreets.

He picked up guys like Donnell Lyons, a 6-5 athletic forward at Thornwood High (Ill.) who grew up in the tough area of Harvey.

``When we first got him, he was raw," Streets added. "Now he, and the other guys, know how to handle themselves in public. They are mature and wherever we go, everyone gives us compliments about how well our kids handle themselves."

Streets isn't like some pro athletes who should certainly be commended for giving some of their paychecks each year to help youth programs. He goes one step further, coaching the team in nearly every tournament each spring and summer – including last year's under-16 AAU Nationals, which were won by the Meanstreets.

``It's amazing what he does," Jerel McNeal, a junior wing who is starting to get big-time looks since joining the Meanstreets a few years ago, said. "He's just a regular guy and does all of this because he cares about us. He wants us to have a chance like the other kids in Chicago."

``We're not the biggest team, so we have to play hard all the time and use our speed," added McNeal.

Streets' work ethic has rubbed off as the Meanstreets have fared well in nearly every tournament thus far. They advanced to the quarterfinals of the Kingwood Classic (Texas) before losing to YOMCA, went 4-1 at the Howard Pulley/Sabes Invitational and won the Select bracket at the Tournament of Champions this past weekend, knocking off O.J. Mayo's D-One Greyhounds in the title game.

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