EAST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — The New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles are set to face off at the Super Bowl this weekend, and one New Jersey town will root for a hometown hero who will take the field in the biggest game of his life.
81-year-old Carletta Williams is beaming with pride. Her grandson is Rasul Douglas, rookie cornerback for the Philly squad.
“I’m so proud,” she told CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez. “I’ve always been proud of him, though.”
She says Douglas’ journey to the NFL wasn’t laid out on a well paved road. Williams raised him and his six siblings in the Kuzuri affordable housing complex in East Orange. His fourth grade teacher says his life could have led him down a much different path.
“Just to see him now accomplishing something that all students dream of being able to accomplish is just awesome,” Dr. Monica Burton said.
Mike Davis met Rasul when he was 9-years-old, coaching him in little league baseball. Without a father figure, Davis took on the role of mentor.
“I knew he was special because he was always a workhorse,” Davis said. “He always had that mentality, then I knew he was going to be something.”
His high school coach saw something special about him too.
“Very humble, not flamboyant,” Marion Bell III said. “Not your typical inner city kid.”
Bell was Rasul’s football coach during his four years playing for the East Orange campus Jaguars.
“At 14-years-old his energy was great,” he said. “I saw the athleticism that could take him far. When he was a senior I knew it because the kid was phenomenal.”
Phenomenal enough to get him through Nassau Community College, playing two years at West Virginia University before becoming a third round pick for the Eagles. Coach Bell says he’ll be sitting in the stands in Minneapolis on Sunday when Rasul takes the field.
“From East Orange, New Jersey to Minneapolis, Minnesota for the Super Bowl?” he said. “I don’t think I’m going to be able to stop smiling.”
Not steady on her legs anymore, Grandma Carletta will be catching the game from home with all of East Orange cheering with her.