Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Family Guide Ex-Sooner Helps Cousin `Qualify for Life'

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Family Guide Ex-Sooner Helps Cousin `Qualify for Life'

Article excerpt

Ex-linebacker Darrell Reed is his cousin's keeper.

Because of that tough-guy love, Armand Spence will follow Reed's footsteps - and bookmarks - at the University of Oklahoma.

Spence is a senior at CBC and an All-Metro linebacker. He was headed now here until rescued by Reed, a three-time All-Big Eight Conference linebacker for the OU juggernauts of the 1980s. Most crucially for Spence, his older cousin was an Academic All-American who got his degree in finance in 4 1/2 years. Schoolwork, not football, brought them together three years ago. Reed, now 31, was selling operating room supplies for Kimberly Clark in St. Louis. On a visit to his hometown of Houston, he got an alarming report on Spence, then in ninth grade. "He was staying with my grandparents," Reed said, keeping the reasons for that arrangement private. "He had a lot of peer pressure, a lot of distractions, and it was an obstacle to his education." Spence was not in trouble with the law. "But friends get you in more trouble than you get yourself in," Reed said. "He was teetering on the edge, and his grades were really, really horrible. "We decided he needed to get out of that environment and get into a new environment. So I brought him with me to St. Louis. I started looking at private schools, and all-boys schools in particular. He needed to be away from girls." A co-worker from CBC recommended his alma mater. "They laid out the ground rules for Armand," Reed said. "There would be strict discipline. Order was going to be kept." The same rules applied at Reed's home in the Central West End. The cousins were close despite being 13 years apart, but this was no buddy-buddy deal. Spence didn't need another friend. He needed a leader. And he got one. "We turned off the TV from Sunday night through Thursday night," Reed said. "I read, and he read. And if he had a problem with his homework, I helped him. And I checked his homework randomly thereafter." And Reed talked, and Spence listened. The monologues were straight-ahead blitzes, such as: "The best thing following the crowd can do is make you mediocre. You do the popular things, like cut up in class or go to a basketball game on a Tuesday night to see the girls, and you end up driving a fast car and drinking 40s (40 ounce beer bottles) on the corner. …

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