Redskins linebacker London Fletcher is a leader to his teammates and a hero to his fans. Whether it’s his fiery passion on the football field or his measured composure in the locker room, Fletcher has built a career on professionalism and playing the game the right way.
But all of that was nearly taken away before it began, on a fateful night back in 1994 on the streets of Cleveland’s East Side. As Fletcher told Joshua Cooley of Sports Spectrum magazine, his 19-year-old self almost had that all snatched away when confrontation nearly led to bloodshed:
As Fletcher walked away, the other man hurried to his car, drove up beside Fletcher and called to him. Fletcher looked over. With an inferno dancing in his eyes, the man pulled out a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun and pointed it straight at Fletcher.
In a fight-or-flight moment, Fletcher did nothing. He didn’t run, cower or plead. A finger twitch from oblivion, he stood his ground. Unafraid. Indifferent.
By then, little in life shocked him. He had already seen so much death and tragedy. Did one more death–even it was his–matter?
“At that point in my life, I didn’t care if he pulled the trigger or not,” Fletcher says. “I wasn’t of the mentality to run. So I just stood there.”
But Fletcher’s story was yet unwritten. Perhaps startled by Fletcher’s reckless indifference, the man lowered the shotgun and drove away. It wasn’t until many years later, that Fletcher could finally appreciate everything that that moment entailed.
Eight years earlier, Fletcher lost his older sister Kecia when she was raped and murdered at age 17. His parents weren’t married, so a father figure was hard to come by, and his mother turned to drugs after they lost his sister.
So Fletcher turned to sports, primarily basketball, in his youth. The article goes on to explain how his time at the local rec center brought him into contact with Tim Isaac, the newly-hired center director. Isaac was impressed with Fletcher’s athletic prowess, but recognized his need for a male role model:
I tried to take young men that I could go the extra mile with and give extra attention to, and speak into their lives,” says Isaac…”I was a father, a brother, an uncle and a mentor.
“London was one of those young men who would listen. He had an anointing on his life. I don’t think anyone knew he’d become such a special person, but you could see there was something special in him.”
Isaac helped Fletcher to realize that pain could be used for motivation, and that the danger in his day-to-day was nothing to be proud of.
Together with the help of Cleveland-area philanthropists like Leonard Schwartz and Charlotte Kramer, Fletcher was given the formal education and life-long teachings that otherwise would have been lost.
All along the way, Fletcher’s internal drive and athletic skill continued to open doors for him, while his family and a belief in God has kept him focused as his career progressed. From a turbulent youth, Fletcher has found a way to find the good in his life, and has found myriad reasons to live:
“I’m proud of it all. To be in the game that God has blessed me to play, I don’t take any day for granted.”
“Everyone goes through something,” Fletcher says. “Trials don’t last–they’re just a test of your faith…I’ve learned not to be discouraged by anything.”
Congratulations to the Iron Man, and here’s hoping for another encouraging season in 2012.