Answering the Question

Why does a 29-year-old man continue to chase after a dream that some would say is improbable, if not impossible? Marty Gitlin talked to Todd DeLamielleure about his dream this weekend, and learned that there's a lot more to this young man than a famous name...

Friends ask Todd DeLamielleure why.

Why does he continue to toil and sweat for a pro football career that might never become a reality?

They remind him that he's 29-years-old and recommend in no uncertain terms that he get on with his life.

But dreams have no logic. They see no barriers. And DeLamielleure was trying to make his dream come true as one of 50 tryout players to the Browns mini-camp.

It was the same dream his father Joe had decades ago. And Joe pushed and shoved his way into the NFL Hall of Fame as an offensive lineman for the Bills and Browns. He opened up holes for O.J. Simpson. He gave protection to Brian Sipe.

But Todd's dad was already an established All-Pro as he approached his 30th birthday. The younger DeLamielleure plods on even after shoulder surgery ended his stint with the Rhein Fire of NFL Europe. He plods on even after a promised roster spot in the All-America Football League disappeared when the league folded before the first kickoff. He plods on with all the odds stacked against him.

Why? Because it's his dream.

"I said, ‘Shoot, I'm going to do everything I can to get another opportunity, as far-fetched as it might be,'" said DeLamielleure, a 240-pound linebacker. "I sent out letters and DVDs and luckily the Browns gave me a call."

He understands how fleeting life is, which is one reason he refuses to give up. That point was hammered home tragically on June 18, 2007.

DeLamielleure, you see, is a firefighter in Charleston, S.C. He considers it the noblest of professions. And on that evening he received an urgent call from a fellow fireman about an inferno at the Sofa Super Store. Many of his comrades had already been called to the scene.

He rushed to his car and headed for the fire, but the highway had been shut down. He couldn't reach it, so he raced back to the fire station and watched the horror unfold on television. Nine firefighters, including four of Tod's close friends, had perished in the blaze.

The event will be tattooed into DeLamielleure's memory forever. It will also motivate him to maximize his potential in life because a person – particularly a firefighter – never knows when that life will come to an end.

"You don't ever recover from it," he says about that horrific late spring night. "It made me realize, you leave the house every day and you tell your wife, ‘See you tomorrow.' That's not guaranteed in the job we do. As cliché as it is, it made me appreciate every day.

"It really drove home the sacrifice firemen make. After that I realized nothing is guaranteed and if there's something you feel passionate about and you want to try, you should do everything in your power to make it happen."

Which brings us back to football. DeLamielleure was a three-year standout at Duke before playing his senior season at Hofstra, earning a trip to the 2001 Blue-Gray Classic and winning defensive MVP for the Blue team. He signed a free agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts, but injured his shoulder before training camp.

DeLamielleure re-injured the shoulder playing in Europe and has since had tryouts with the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills, but neither resulted in an NFL job. Soon he was fighting fires in Charleston.

It appeared his dream of playing football would finally become a reality last summer, however, when he signed to play with the Arkansas franchise in the fledgling AAFL, which was only taking players boasting college degrees. But just days before the scheduled opening of training camp, the season was canceled due to a lack of funds.

So DeLamielleure looked for other opportunities to play football. And his dad continued to provide encouragement.

"My father is great guy," he says. "He never put pressure on me to play football, but he knew it was something I wanted to do."

And that holds true whether you're 19 or 29. It took a tragic fire and nine lives lost for the philosophy that a man should always pursue his dream to be cemented in the heart and mind of Todd DeLamielleure.


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