This is not topical. Not at all. It is not breaking news; heck, it barely was three years ago. It should have been, but things like this never are. We don't think of NFL stars as people.
About three years ago, Laveranues Coles, a Pro Bowl receiver, then as now a New York Jet, admitted that he had been raped, not sexually abused as he tried to portrait it, but raped by his step-father when he was a pre-teenage boy. Raped.
One of the most talented and prolific wide receivers of his era, raped. Not once, as if the number of times matters, but continually.
After the Jets defeated Miami in their week two game in 2005, Coles publicly admitted that a man his mother was dating and would latter marry started raping him. For three years, Coles lived through the hell of being raped. For more than a decade, he lived through the hell of feeling unclean and unwanted because of it, eating away at his mind every day when he woke up.
Even as he caught more than 80 passes for 1204 yards and six touchdowns on the way to the Pro Bowl one season.
If this had happened to me, I don't think I could have gotten out of bed in the morning. I don't think I could have gone to school and put a fake smile on my face. I'm just not that strong.
Do you think you are?
Instead, we are lucky enough to be able to sugar-coat things like this when we see them and push them aside. We don't want to address the problem; we don't want to think about it.
We want to believe Coles is the exception; we want to think he's the only one who will suffer through this.
And we are right when we think he is the exception: he is one of the few who is willing to admit what happened to him.
According to data compiled by stopitnow.com, 88 percent of all cases involving “sexual abuse” of children is never reported. Ever. Eight-in-every-nine-cases. Coles is the exception.
But that's the only place where he is.
About 20 percent of girls will be sexually abused in some way as a child and between five and 10 percent of boys. Many of these cases are not as severe as Coles, but some are. Additionally, 70 to 90 percent of these children will be victimized by someone they know.
They will be victimized by an aunt or uncle, mother or father, brother or sister, cousin, anyone. Maybe the parent of a friend. Most likely, no one will ever find out.
And that really makes sense.
Think of your most embarrassing moment. Whatever it is. Could you go up to a random stranger and tell them about it? Of course not. At the very least, I know I could not.
Somehow, Coles did. And his “embarrassing moment” is something so much more surreal than anything I could make up.
No, let me rewrite that.
His "embarrassing moment" is something so much more real than anything I could ever dream up.
"I just want to help kids because I think it happens to more people in this world than actually allow ourselves to believe,” said Coles in 2005. “Coming up, I always felt like I was the only one that ever happened to. Then, when I started going to different sessions, they let me know that it happens to a lot more people."
That still is, three years later, the greatest quote I have ever heard out of a professional athlete.
Do I like Coles as a player? Would I be happy if my team traded for him? No, I would not.
But there is not a person in the National Football League, there is not a person in professional sports that I respect more than I do Coles. Not one.
There might never be.
The fact that he had the courage just to pull through this is remarkable.
The fact that he was man enough to seek counseling despite being a jock is just mind-boggling.
The fact that he would come forward and tell the world in hopes that it would help other kids suffering through the same hell he once did is heroic.
And we need to think of Laveranues Coles as such, as a hero. Every day.
In a sports media world that is dominated by and continually obsessed with the Jeremy Shockey's and Terrell Owens's, we need true heroes.
We can have our fake ones, the guys who on any given day lead our favorite teams to unprecedented heights, the ones we would emulate as children. Those we can dehumanize and idolize as if they are gods.
Laveranues Coles is a real hero; he is the type of man that everyone should emulate to be. He is the type of person we need to wake up each morning and wish we could be as talented as.
Not necessarily on the football field, but mentally and courageously.
He is a true hero because after what he has gone through, he is more human than any of us hopefully will ever have the burden of being.
That is why I am reminding you of this story.
I hate the New York Jets; I always will. But I also will never scream louder, jump higher, smile realer than whenever Coles scores a touchdown.
I might not want to, but the internal love I have for this man is that rooted in me.
There is no data as to how many people have sought help because of Coles, but I am sure it is plenty. Even if it is one, then Coles has earned his moniker.
Not “Trouble” like he once went by. No, that one doesn't fit anymore.
At least that's what I will always call him.