Player balances football, fatherhood
Randolph’s Yellock has family in mind
As hundreds of high school football players across the state play their annual Thanksgiving Day games today, Kenneth J. Yellock’s day will be more complicated than most.
The 6-foot, 190-pound linebacker and wingback for Randolph High will put on his gear one more time to play his last high school football game. The 17-year-old senior, who goes by the nickname KJ, has taken a leadership role on a struggling team.
And when his final game is over, he will go home to celebrate the first Thanksgiving with his family and newborn son, Kenneth Champagne-Yellock.
Area Thanksgiving football games to watch, Page 4
In June, Yellock’s girlfriend Brianna Champagne, a junior at Randolph High, gave birth to Kenneth, changing their lives forever. Even with a newborn, both Champagne and Yellock attend school full time.
“At first I didn’t want to keep playing football,’’ said Yellock. “I thought I couldn’t handle it. A lot of people said I could do it and to try and balance it. I didn’t think I was going to be able to.
“But then I thought, I can do it. I’m going to prove it to [Brianna], that I’m going to be around more and still play football.’’
Yellock has been true to his word, making the effort to support his family.
“I’m there for them every single day regardless if I have football or not,’’ he said.
His life has been full of challenges, even before young Kenneth arrived. He is the youngest of eight children, with three older sisters, Carla, Sherrie, and Tonya, and four older brothers, Eric, Lemi, Tory, and Mikel.
In 2007, Yellock moved in with his grandmother, Patricia Yellock, because his parents, Valerie and Kenneth, moved to Boston so his mother could undergo treatments for cancer. However, his mother died in 2008, and Yellock chose to continue living with his grandmother and finish school in Randolph.
Now, a typical day for Yellock starts by getting ready for school. He arrives early to help settle Kenneth in the day-care program at Randolph High, and then moves from father to student. One of his favorite classes is Advanced Placement calculus, a college-level course.
“Math is my favorite subject. I hope to go into some math-related field when I graduate,’’ said Yellock. He said he plans to attend college next year as another step to make a better life for his young family.
When the final bell rings at school, he’s back to being a dad.
“After school I try to get work done. I get [Brianna and Kenneth] ready to go home. Then I go to practice. After practice I’m over there to help out. It’s the same thing every day.’’
After his season ends today, he will start working for STARS, an after-school day-care program to help provide for his son.
Yellock spends most of his free time at his girlfriend’s family’s house, where Kenneth lives, just a few houses away from his grandmother’s. Having Kenneth has given him a reason to stay in and keep out of trouble.
“Having the baby is something new to handle,’’ he said. “I’m adjusting to it. I don’t see it as a burden for me. Having him gives me a reason to stay in the house. I never really went out before anyway.’’
And as for diaper duty, Yellock said he doesn’t mind.
“It’s not a problem with me changing diapers,’’ he said. “Not at all.’’
At first Champagne was not supportive of Yellock’s decision to play football.
“I thought he couldn’t be available to be a father while playing football; football is a full commitment,’’ she said. “There’s games on weekends. There are weekends where I wish I had a break and he has a game. But when I was watching the homecoming game on TV, I realized that’s what he loves to do. I changed my mind.’’
Champagne hasn’t been able to make any games this year, taking care of Kenneth. She watches them whenever they’re on the Randolph cable TV channel.
Yellock is one of the more serious players for the Blue Devils, who have struggled this year with a 3-6 record.
“I’m there every single day,’’ he said. “We stay out of trouble and go to practice every day. We’re mentally and physically there and then there’s others that don’t put as much work into it.’’
Senior Armani Reed said Yellock takes on a leadership role.
“He’s like another captain,’’ said Reed, a 5-foot-10, 160-pound running back. “He’s very vocal on the field and keeps us on the right track. He plays aggressive but he plays with an attitude. He’s always flying across the field and making plays.’’
Reed said the team wants to give Yellock its unsung hero award for his contributions this year.
“He does a great job balancing football and being a dad,’’ Reed said. “He puts his priorities first. He’ll be at practice and he’ll say he’s working on one to two hours of sleep. But he’ll still be there giving it his all.’’
Randolph athletic director Anthony Price said that Yellock and Champagne understand the responsibility of having a child.
“Working together and communicating on that is not easy,’’ said Price. “They’re seen as a team. As parents it’s important that they’re working together. What I’ve seen is that this young man is dedicated to his family. He is planning to do better things for the future of his young family.’’
Price added: “We know the alarming statistics of young people having children and dropping out, particularly African-Americans. It’s impressive they’re doing this together. [Kenneth] depending on them is a huge responsibility and they’re handling it just fine.’’
Yellock said he plans to leave his heart on the field today and hopes to come off with a victory over Bishop Feehan.
“I’m excited it’s the last game, to leave a statement for the team,’’ he said. “It will be our first Thanksgiving game on the new field. I’m sad at the same time because it will be my last time playing football. I’m going to leave it all on the field and play the best that I can play.’’
As for Kenneth’s future in football, Yellock said he’ll be proud of any sport his son will choose to play.
“I’m going to let him try whatever sports he wants,’’ he said. “Whatever he wants to do I’ll let him do. I’ll be supportive of whatever it is.’’
Colleen Casey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.