On The Lighter Side

Fans of Ohio high school football and recruiting in general have likely heard the name Fred Lenix. The Cleveland Glenville linebacker is rated as one of Ohio's top five overall prospects by Ohio High magazine and is also one of the fastest track runners in the state. Lenix, however, came close not too long ago to giving it all up. Find out why in today's special free version of On The Lighter Side.

Most people who follow recruiting in Ohio know about Fred Lenix, the multi-talented football and track star for the Glenville Tarblooders.

Ohio High has him ranked as the fourth best prospect in the state and he's just a week or so away of possibly becoming the fastest 100 meter runner in the state this year, if he can beat his Glenville teammate Jamario O'Neal.

Ohio State fans would love to see Lenix in a Buckeye uniform but he has yet to receive an offer from them. He hears that it's coming but he doesn't know when. In fact, Lenix doesn't have many offers at this point and it's not due to academics as far as I can tell. He boasts a 3.0 GPA and is awaiting his results from his ACT tests he recently took.

Lenix admits that the University of Florida and even Emmit Smith have been a longtime favorite of his but it won't take a great deal of convincing at all for him to sign on with Ohio State.

"I'm leaning toward O-State," Lenix said. "They've been giving me a lot of mail, hand-written, and they're letting me know they're looking at me. They're letting me know they're recruiting me. In the Big Ten, it's just been O-State. Florida just started sending me mail last month. But (Ohio State's) been on me. They've been sending me letters and telling me to set a goal, look straight and don't mess up with academics and be a good person. I'd be happy there."

I've seen Lenix play in person on more than a couple of occasions and I think he and O'Neal have to be considered to be two of the top defensive players in the state. And when you consider that the speedy Lenix, at 5-11, 196 pounds, just might be the state's biggest surprise on offense as a running back this year, I have to wonder out loud why there are not more offers in hand than just the few he now has.

Regardless of the offers that he has or doesn't have as of yet, Lenix is running track and preparing for football with a renewed vigor these days. The single reason why he almost gave it all up this winter has become the reason why he's decided to soldier on.

"I'm real excited," said Lenix about the prospects of his future. "People in my family have never had the opportunity to do the things that I'm doing, so it will be a chance for me to make a big impact on my family and myself. You know I have a son now and I want to be able to help raise him real good." 

Fred Lenix, Jr. came into this world during last football season. Glenville was playing a Senate League contest in an afternoon game on a Friday and Lenix was late to arrive. I was at the game but I had no clue that was the reason why he came late.

"Now that he's here, I've been telling myself that I'm not just working for myself no more, I'm working for him," Lenix said. "And everyday I get up, I've got a picture right there and I look at him and say, ‘This day is for you, day by day is for you. Everything I do is for your future.'

"It just makes me explode inside. I've got to make myself do something because if I don't, then I would be letting him down."

As you might imagine, it hasn't been easy being a dad for Lenix. But fortunately for him he has his family at Glenville and he has Ted Ginn, Sr. because his own family environment has never been a very stable one.

"It's hard, but Ginn helps me make the best of it. He keeps me on track," Lenix said. "If Ginn doesn't see me, nine times out of 10 something went bad. So we stay talking everyday and he helps me with my home stuff. He's like my father"

Lenix's own father, to this day, has never been much of a factor in his life if at all. And he has yet to see his own grandson.

"My real big supporters are my sister and my two cousins and my mom and my niece. They support me the most out of all of my family," Lenix said. "I've got a family that will talk good about me because I'm doing what I'm doing but they really don't support me none. My grandfather helps me a lot."

And it helps that Lenix has a good understanding with his son's mother.

"Right now, it seems hard some days because I don't get to spend as much time as I want to with my son," he said. "But the baby's mother understands what I'm going through and what I'm trying to do so she's doing as much as possible to make it easy on me. So I'm just trying to make the best out of it because I know that in the long run it's going to pay off."

Patience is definitely a virtue for Lenix in his personal plight as well as for his football future.

"Everything is starting to click now," he said. "It didn't start off good for me but now everything is starting to get rolling. And by me being patient, I'm going to go to the next level with football and hopefully work for the next level after that."

But Lenix was close to giving everything up at the beginning of track season. Football, track and even school so he could find a way to provide for his son.

"I thought about giving up before because I had so much stuff on my mind and I didn't know how to control it," he said. "I was so shaky I tried to quit track because I wanted to just work and take care of my son."

That's when Ginn and the coaching staff intervened.

"They got it in my head that if I just drop all of this, it's going to be even harder on me," Lenix said. "So I started listening and I decided to go to school and take care of business."

It's obvious that Lenix has a special place in Ginn's heart.

"Right now, I couldn't be any more proud for Fred than I am for any of them," said Ginn. "I look at him as my son and if Fred doesn't make it then I'd be totally messed up. I understand who he is and where he comes from. Fred is my dude. He's my son. I look at him just like I look at the rest of them, but Fred is real special to me because I'm probably the first man that he's ever had to listen to."

Ginn has always tried to be protective of Lenix because of his surroundings.

"I've always protected Freddie. I never wanted Freddie to be overwhelmed with anything and I just continue to make a way for him," Ginn said. "He has so many things he has to deal with so I always try to limit all of his excuses and just keep my hand on him."

But Ginn admitted that he came close to losing Freddie and it could have easily been for good.

"I had a real big problem with him during track season because I was afraid that I had lost him," Ginn said. "I went to his house and I was real tough on him and I was not going to lose Freddie. I sat down with him and his mom and I talked to them and it was a shouting match, it was all of that. There were tears shed and I walked out of his house and I thought it was over. The next day I couldn't come to work."

Something Ginn said must have really clicked in Lenix's mind.

"The next day he came to school he went and got his hair cut and he got all of the braids out of his hair and he changed his whole life around," he said. "He realized after all this time that I loved him for more than just a sport and track and all of that and I had to stay with him to keep him in the right direction. If I can't get Freddie to do anything, then he's lost."

Lenix had started in the wrong direction and Ginn turned him around.

"He was dealing with about four or five different things so he started eliminating things that he didn't think was necessary," Ginn said. "So he started with track and then he wouldn't come to school and then he wouldn't go to class because he was trying to deal with stuff. So I said, ‘That's what I'm here for, to help you manage the situation.' 

"He was trying to work, take care of the baby, take care of the momma, come to school, run track and it was too much; something had to go. So he didn't feel track or sports was important but I told him ‘this is your avenue.' So after that night he came back to school and we've been doing pretty good ever since."

Ginn admits it was a close call but he reiterated that Freddie is now keenly focused on track and football as well as his personal life.

"That one scared me, this incident here," the coach said. "We've had situations here, but that one with Freddie scared me." 

For most of us, it's hard to even comprehend the type of life that kids like Lenix and Curtis Terry, his former Glenville teammate now headed to Ohio State, go through.

"When I was young I had it real rough," Lenix said. "Me and my mom never had a good relationship, I was in and out of her house and she was abusive when I was young. My father is a crack addict. I see him hanging around here and he tries to talk to me and I just look at him now like another person off the street and it's like, ‘Who are you talking to?'

"It's hard for me because I tried so hard to get my father in my life and when I finally got him in, I asked my mom if he could live with us, and he came and lived with us and he didn't do nothing but steal from me. So that was hard."

Prior to him becoming a football star at Glenville, Lenix hardly ever saw or even heard from his father.

"When he started seeing me in the newspaper and on TV, when they talk about me a little bit, he tried to come back in my life," Lenix said. "I just can't accept it."

And to this day, Lenix's relationship with his mom remains tenuous at best.

"Right now, we can be getting along one day and then one day she's got an attitude about something," he said. "And when she's got an attitude about something else, she takes it out on me. When she's like that, everything goes down hill and it just messes me up. 

"I don't want to have a fall out with my mom because everybody knows you only have one. So I just talk to a coach about it and they tell me what to do and I just let everything calm down before it gets out of hand."

His sister Michelle has always been there for him.

"When my mom kicks me out, my sister just tells me to come over there and it wouldn't be no different," Lenix said. "It would be stronger with my sister because my sister forces me to take care of my business. And my two cousins are a big part of my life too because without them I would have been down and out some days."

Despite the obstacles he's faced in life, Lenix still has dreams just like we all do. And he's ready, willing and able to pursue them now.

"I just want to go to go to college and major in computers or engineering and continue on in my football career," he said. "If I don't make it in my football career then I just want something real good to fall back on."

And Freddie Jr.?

"I just can't stress enough that everything that I'm doing is for him.  It's just all for him," Lenix said. "So I can't give up."

Lenix doesn't want his son to have to experience the same type of life that he's been through.

"Living large, that's my dream," he said. "I want to live big because I've been through so much and I just want to make it big and just enjoy the rest of my life and raise him right on the path that I never had."

Glenville is the right place to stay on the right path.

"Where you think you're at when you're at Glenville?," said Ginn with a chuckle. "This is the hospital and we heal people here."

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