Somerville High graduate and Detroit Lions offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus, 25, gave a football clinic in July for kids in his hometown.
How old were you when you moved here from Haiti? I was about 14. We moved to East Somerville, where most of my friends still live.
You started out playing basketball. Why the switch? I thought I was going to be the next Michael Jordan. Until one day a football coach pulled me to the side. I jumped in. I was so competitive. I wanted to catch up. Coach [Tony] Gulla -- the head football coach at the time -- was my mentor. He was there for me. He found a way to make us all know we were a team with one goal. He taught us not only to win ballgames, but he used to put guys in his car and take us to watch colleges.
Did he talk to you about playing in the pros? He used to joke, “If you do this right you’ll be in the NFL someday.” Some days I didn’t want to go lift. He’d say, “Those kids in Miami, Florida, Connecticut -- you think they’re slacking? If you want to be the best, you’ve got to train like it.”
After you left for Boston College, the team went downhill. It was tough. I felt some of those kids didn’t really know what they wanted out of football. It’s like anything you do in life -- give yourself a purpose. The moment you give yourself a big enough reason, you’re going to try the hardest you can.
What made you decide to give the clinic? I came to a game last year during my bye week and there were barely 60, 70 kids. We decided to start a little kids’ camp. I wanted to let them know: I grew up here with nothing. If I can do it, so can you.
It sounds like Somerville still matters to you.
The mayor, my coaches -- they found me. What kind of person would I be to just do what I’m doing and turn my back on the rest of those kids?
How often do you visit? When we have a long weekend, I hop on a plane. Home’s home. I can go down the street to my buddy’s house. Even if he’s not around, his mother will feed me.