Thursday, November 10, 2016

Grossmont College football standout overcomes life's challenges to succeed

Adrian Tolbert
Adrian Tolbert has found a home at Grossmont College. Now the Grossmont College student and football player has his sights set on a football scholarship to a major Division I program and a possible future as an NFL wide receiver.

"He's here for school every day, he hasn't been late to practice, and he's taken a leadership role on the team," head football coach Mike Jordan said. "He's just a wonderful stand-up young man."

As a senior at Castle Park High School in Chula Vista, Tolbert was recruited by several universities, but his grades were not good enough to enroll. He decided to enroll at Grossmont College, bring his grades up to par, and work on his football skills.

Tolber is developing into a star. At 6 feet, 5 inches tall and about 210 pounds, he has produced a collection of highlights as a leading receiver on the Griffin squad. After hauling in six receptions for 140 yards and three touchdowns against College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita north of Los Angeles, he was named the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference's Oct. 3 Athlete of the Week. Three weeks later, he again surpassed 100 yards receiving and caught another three touchdown passes in a shootout loss to Saddleback College.

He's drawn the attention of recruiters at the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. He credits Grossmont College for helping him turn his life around.

"I feel comfortable at Grossmont," said Tolbert, who has worn No. 13 on his jersey since his days at Castle Park. "The environment is welcoming and there are a lot of resources to help you out. And the football program's priority is on developing the players as people first."

His successes on the field present a stark contrast to the challenges at home. Tolbert grew up in Chula Vista and was living in an apartment with three brothers, a sister and his parents until his father, a luggage handler, was hurt on the job and couldn't work anymore. Several surgeries later, he remains on disability.

Unable to afford the rent, the Tolbert family for a while was living with an uncle. For the past year or so, they've found shelter in a trailer at a regional park. Because the temporary digs can be too small for his parents and all of his siblings, Tolbert often sleeps in a tent and showers at the campground. His days consist of school, studying, working out, and football.

His predicament, however, is not unusual. A national study released in December by the Wisconsin Hope Lab at the University of Wisconsin found that 13 percent of community college students were homeless and more than half of community college students struggle with food and housing insecurity.

Grossmont College has become Tolbert's respite. It's where he has found his comfort zone, an array of student support services, and a program that is looking out for his best interests.

"A lot of guys on our team are facing different challenges," Jordan said. "A lot of our guys don't have a lot. We're here to support them, guide them, and help develop them into upstanding young men."

The athletic coaches help their outstanding players get scholarships to four-year colleges and universities, and they have a good track record. Tim Patrick, a first-team all-PCAC in 2013 at Grossmont College, is now starting at Utah and caught the winning touchdown pass in a stunner against USC earlier this season. Wide receiver Nick Kurtz, who was named first-team, all-conference at Grossmont, is now starting at Brigham Young University.

"If we can get these kids to a university, they're going to have to go to class to stay on the team," Jordan said. "And if they're going to class, they're going to graduate. If they can graduate and get a degree, their chances of succeeding in life are infinitely greater."

Tolbert hasn't made up his mind about what university he would like to attend. But he knows that Grossmont College played a major role in setting him on his journey.