Letroy Guion knew he was taking a financial risk and potentially leaving hundreds of the thousands of dollars off his rookie signing bonus by declaring himself eligible for the 2008 NFL Draft after his junior season at Florida State.
He didn't care. He wanted to provide something for his family now rather than probably being able to provide more next summer if he had returned to Florida State for his senior season of eligibility and raised his stock from the fifth-round selection he became in 2008.
"We didn't grow up with a lot of stuff. My mom and dad always worked my whole life and they're getting old now," Guion said. "My mom has had two surgeries that could have been life-ending surgeries. I wanted to come out whether or not I got picked in the second round or the sixth round. I just wanted to come out and give it my all and try to prove myself so I can take care of my family."
Guion, a defensive tackle nicknamed "Baloo" after the affable Disney cartoon bear, also wanted to have his mother be able to see him play in the pros "before she passes or before she isn't able to move around anymore because she is getting older. She's not that old, but she's just had those surgeries that beat down on the body."
His mother had gastric bypass surgery and also had a tumor removed from the abdominal area that Guion says was the size of a grapefruit.
"They cut three times across the top (of her abdominal area) and one long one across the bottom," Guion said. "It was some type of tumor. I guess it was cancer, but they don't like to tell me because they know I get all emotional and serious about my mom. I love my whole family, my brothers and sisters and I'll always love them until the day I die. I always try to do the right thing for my family."
Guion likely would have been able to return to Florida State and get drafted next year higher than the fifth round, which would have translated into a bigger signing bonus for him. According to his NFL bio, "it was a great surprise to FSU coaches when Guion announced after the Motor City Bowl that he would bypass his senior season."
He hadn't completely established himself at Florida State. He started 14 of 32 games, recording 66 tackles and 1½ sacks, 12½ tackles for losses, two quarterback pressures, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. Those are his career stats, not his 2007 season stats, and he was expected to return to a starting role next year filling the void left by left defensive tackle Andre Fluellen, who was drafted in third round by the Detroit Lions.
But Guion's family situation was more important to him than increasing his draft stock, and his decision to come out after his junior season was reinforced on draft weekend, when his mother tried to pick up a 12-pack of soda and Guion saw her in pain.
She is no longer working, but Guion sees the irony in the last job she held – doing custodial work for about two years at the University of Florida while her son played for Florida State. She drives a burgundy car with Florida State stickers and "nobody messes with her. My mom represents. She's not scared," Letroy says.
She hasn't worked for the past four months with her declining health and Guion spent the last few months assisting his family with buying and cooking food. Letroy said his father gets paid "pretty good" in his construction job, but they have loans to pay on the house and two cars – including one car that was originally supposed to be paid for by Letroy's uncle (his father co-signed for that loan and had to continue payments after his uncle could no longer afford it).
Adding to the financial stresses is the fact that he comes from a relatively large family by today's standards – he has a brother, three sisters and a step-brother – that his father is providing for.
Guion was offered scholarships to Georgia, Tennessee, Iowa and Florida, but the last one came during a time of transition with the Gators. Ron Zook left and Urban Meyer took over. Meyer wasn't calling Guion once he took over and Letroy said he wanted to be Seminole anyways.
"My whole family is Florida State fans. My little sister even goes around wearing my Florida State shorts after school every day. We love Florida State," he said.
But Guion's main passion right now sounds like it is helping his family through tough financial times and providing his mother a chance to see him put on a professional uniform in 2008.
"She had just been stressing herself out overwhelmingly. I had to step in in some kind of way to help my family," he said.
For Vikings' Guion, Family Trumps Finances
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