Growing up in Homewood (Pa.) and then spending the rest of you adolescent years in Duquesne, it becomes easy to go astray and become a statistic. The violent crime rate in Duquesne is four times higher than the national average. It’s easy for young adult to fall into a life of crime, but not quite as easy for them to find a way out.
East Allegeheny standout Shawn Adair
Shawn Adair could easily become one of those kids that he sees everyday on the local street corners in town. When he was just five years old his father was gunned down in a bar.
Adair was so young and the memory has been blocked from his mind that he doesn’t really remember off hand when his father passed or his name without the help of his mother.
“I was very young when all of that happened and my mom waited until I was a little bit older to explain it to me,” Adair said of his father’s passing. “She figured when I was older that I would be able to understand a little bit better. I honestly would have to ask my mom his name.
“I wish I had some memories of him,” continued Adair. “I think about him and the situation often. I just wonder what he would say to me. How would he think I have turned out? What would be different about my life? Would he be proud of me?”
Adair was born and lived in Homewood until he was in the fifth grade. His family then moved to Duquesne. The city of Duquesne was once a proud and booming steel town, once the steel industry flat lined everything changed. Now, Duquesne has a population under (5,500) people.
In 2007, Duquesne High School closed after being named one of the worst performing schools in the state. Students were then forced to go to West Mifflin or East Allegheny.
Growing up in Duquesne, Adair dreamed of playing for the Dukes, but that all changed when the school was shutdown forcing Adair to enroll at East Allegheny.
“It was very disappointing when that all happened,” Adair said of the Duquesne closing. “The reality of it all eventually sets in and you do what you have to do. It was hard at first starting all over and meeting new people.”
Adair at (13) for the Homewood Bull Dawgs
Thanks to sports, the transition has been much easier and according to Adair sports has likely saved his life. Ironically, if it wasn't for his youthful exuberance to defy his mothers wishes he may not have ever started playing football.
“My mom never really wanted me to play sports when I was young, she was always afraid that I would get hurt,” laughed Adair. “I snuck down to the local youth league and signed up one day. I came home and had my pads with me and she wasn’t very happy about it.
“She gave in about it,” he continued. “She knew I loved it, so she started to support it more. As I grew up and got older I never really heard much more about. It always kept me out of trouble.”
In Homewood and Duquesne, trouble is not hard to find, especially for a young teenager.
“It’s easy to get caught up in that life,” Adair explained. “There are always people around here doing the wrong things. There are people selling drugs, people killing each other and just doing the wrong thing. Those people always try to pull you in that direction, but I just keep to myself and I do my own thing.
“Every day is a struggle when you come up in a place like this and it is easy to go in the wrong direction,” Adair said of the street life. I don’t want to do bad to have it good. When I have kids, I never want to see them struggle like this. My mom is a single mom and she raised five kids by herself. God bless her.
Adair is now a standout basketball and football player at East Allegheny High School and like many young athletes in crime ridden towns he realizes sports are his way out.
“Sports are my way out of here, a way out of this struggle,” Adair said of his passion for athletics. “I put my heart and soul into every game. If you are going to play you have to dedicate yourself to it. You have to stay positive, move forward and prove people wrong. I am going to make it!”
The FinestPreps video that started it all
Not many people know much about Adair, but after Finestpreps co-founder Ayo Fapohunda saw his highlights he knew that he had just unearthed a gem. Fapohunda runs the Western PA Swag 7v7 team and also makes highlight films for players across the state free of charge.
“When I got his film and popped it in you knew right away that he was just the guy,” Fapohunda said of his new found project. “I went and watched him play hoops and you could just see the explosiveness. He is just a different type of athlete than most.”
The film has found its way to a number of college coaches and the response has been very positive. Adair is getting inquiries from Pitt, Virginia Tech, Michigan State, Toledo, Rutgers and Maryland. He is going to Pitt next week for an unofficial visit.
“With basketball starting it’s hard for me to do much with recruiting,” Adair said. “I’m going down there to meet with the coaches. I haven’t really talked to them yet.
“I like Pitt, but I never really favored anyone,” continued Adair. “I watch a lot of college football and you just never really know where you will end up if you get the chance.
"I just want to find the best fit for me," he continued. "You could find a great school, but it doesn’t fit you academically. I want to see the program, the facilities, campus and get to know the coaches and how they do things, but it’s got to fit me.”
Despite everything that has gone wrong in Adair’s life, he always tries to stay positive and focused. He is getting closer to realizing a dream that not everyone gets a chance to experience and it is one that he doesn’t plan to take for granted.
“I don’t think some kids realize how good they have when they go to college,” Adair said. “I’m just hopeful that someone gives me an opportunity. I work hard and to the best of my ability. When life gets tough I just try to envision myself being the best at whatever I’m doing. I want to be successful.
“I know I just have to take it one step at a time first is finishing high school” he continued. “Then I want to go to college and do well, then lord willing I will get a chance to be a professional. I just always have to remember its one step at a time and stay positive, no matter what.”
The 6-foot-1, 175 pound athlete scored 14 touchdowns this year. He earned first team all-conference honors as a wide receiver and second team honors as a defensive back. He is versatile having played wide receiver, quarterback, running back, safety, cornerback, linebacker, punter and was the return man for the Wildcats.
Adair will take the court tonight in East Allegheny's season opener. The Wildcats will take on Quigley in the Serra Catholic tournament.