Eight days before he was murdered by his mother's ex-boyfriend, Atlanta-area football star Rajaan Bennett wrote an essay tracing the brutal challenges he had weathered by the age of 18. An excerpt of that essay from a story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
In the year of 2000, I moved from the streets of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to the suburbs of Powder Springs. A year later, my dad died in a horrible car wreck, and as a 10-year-old, I knew he wasn't coming back. This tragedy rattled me to the core. I felt as if there was no need for me to live. I wanted to be as happy as the kids with dads and moms.
Some days I would wonder --- why me? But eventually, I realized that it was my turn to become a man.
As I became older, I came to notice that in life you use strength as a blanket to protect you from this cold world.
I am the oldest of three and I have a brother with special needs whom I have to take care of. I have to balance school, sports, friends and family --- and it gets so hard, but I push myself. I push myself like a sprinter who is neck and neck with an opponent with 10 meters left. With the strength that I possess, I feel like I'm Hercules.
I matured faster than all of my friends --- and there will never be a time that I will give up. I may complain, I may refuse, and I may even cry about it, but I know I have to do what I have to do. I work hard at whatever I do --- just for that Man upstairs to smile down on me with the rays of the sun ... and they feel so warm.
My drive cannot be stopped or even slowed down, because every obstacle has a way around it. Every day I become stronger from the weights physically, the books mentally, and life emotionally. There is no limit to my strength and at the end of the day, I want to be known as the strongest.
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Bennett last month signed a letter of intent to Vanderbilt University, where he was to be the program's top-rated incoming recruit. He was killed February 18 after an ex-boyfriend of his mother's stormed the family's house, then held them hostage. Bennett's mother, his brother, and cousin escaped, but Bennett was shot in the chest. The killer then turned the gun on himself. Bennett's full essay can be read here.
More details on Bennett's tragic murder, here.
A highlight reel of Bennett: