Homeless to NBA: Sacrifice Is Constant

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The month of March means many things to many people. If you have a relative pulse on American culture, it is easy to know that March is the month where dreams for thousands of college basketball fans are either crushed or realized.  March Madness allows not only for the best college basketball teams in the country to compete for a national championship, but it presents a national stage for individual athlete’s stories to be seen and heard to the masses.  During this time of the year, the country is usually swooning over a Cinderella team that has made it far in the tournament, but the talk this year has been about a singular player with an incredible journey, Caleb Swanigan.
Caleb Swanigan spent much of his youth rotating between the low income housing areas and homeless shelters between Indianapolis and Salt Lake City.  Before Caleb was born, his father’s addiction to crack cocaine and abusive tendencies became a major issue in his family’s life.  When Caleb was born his family moved to Salt Lake City in an effort for his mother to find a steady income and to escape his father.  His mother was not successful in her efforts to find affordable income so the family rotated between the two cities, living with their father and between homeless shelters in an effort to provide a roof over the head of the six Swanigan children.
Caleb responded to this unstable living situation and changing schools every few months by eating, a lot.  Healthy food is not a luxury for the lower class and people on welfare, so the only foods available to console Caleb were high sodium and fat foods.  He ballooned up to 360 pounds by the time he was in 8th grade.  Caleb’s life changed when his mother decided to move to Texas. His older brother during his high school career was an elite level basketball player, but due to complications with an accident that cost him his eye it was not possible for him to attend college.  Carl Jr. (Caleb’s brother) however when he heard news of his mother and brother moving to Texas called his old AAU coach, Roosevelt Barnes and asked to help Caleb so that he may have the success he did not have an opportunity to achieve.
Roosevelt Barnes decided to take in Caleb, however he wanted to be an active and stable constant in Caleb’s life so he filed papers for adoption.  Caleb moved in with Roosevelt and after 4 years in high school his eating habits changed, he was able to slim down so that he could show off his abilities and worked hard to become a McDonald’s All-American.  Caleb de-committed from Michigan State and decided to attend Purdue where he saw himself having the best possible future to achieve success on the court and also in the life changes he had made with Roosevelt.
Caleb’s story is indeed heart-warming and positive, but that alone does not do Caleb justice.  As an athlete, in order to achieve greatness, success comes with a huge sacrifice.  Success is not something that once it is achieved it becomes easy, it becomes harder and harder to attain.  Success is a constant battle, every second of the day to constantly do the right thing. Whether it be on the playing field or in the work place, in order to obtain success there needs to be a focus from an individual that is cannot be stopped in order to reach a goal.  As seen through Caleb’s life, failure is a cycle that once started is very challenging to stop.  In order to break that cycle and take steps to reach success, every second needs to be dedicated in order to reach a goal because it is very easy to hinder that quest for success.
Eating was not just something Caleb took up to deal with his life.  It is a trait that ran in his entire family and was something they all struggled with. On a more macro level Caleb’s life is a testament that when given the right situation and environment for someone to grow, they can succeed and reach their potential. Caleb’s tale is more than just an example of the selflessness of Roosevelt Barnes and the hard work of Caleb, it shows us all in society that when people who are less fortuned and put into a constant cycle of poverty and failure are given the opportunity to achieve, no matter how small or big that opportunity is they will make the most of it.
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