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  • Darryl Cheeks

It All Came Down To This

Updated: Sep 30, 2021

Many of you may already be aware that our youngest son, Sebastian Cole Cheeks, is one of the top 100 football players in the nation. Over the past two years, it has been an absolute whirlwind for Sebastian and our family. To date, Sebastian has received about 35 Division One full-ride football scholarships from schools like Notre Dame, Michigan, Stanford, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Northwestern, Oregan, U of Texas and Tennessee, just to name a few. This sounds unbelievable, but Sebastian would spend two to three hours a day (even during the school year) speaking to coaches at all levels including Zoom calls, phone calls, texts, emails, and campus visits. As his parents, Rebecca and I had no idea of where we too were headed. It was, and has been, an amazing experience being a part of virtual tours, Zoom meetings, coaches singing Happy Birthday to my wife, daily texts, hundreds of cards and multiple school visits.

I know some of you may be wondering how this blog has anything to do with the ministry of Dayenu. You see, in the month of June and July 2021, our family experienced something that was quite profound, and in my estimation, a true dialogue with our God. It is interesting, as we look to serve in our ministry, we discovered that we were actually being served ourselves.

In the month of June and last week of July 2021, universities were open for “Official Visits.” This is when NCAA regulations allow the college football recruits the opportunity to visit up to five of the schools that are attempting to win them over. And boy do they roll out the red carpet for the recruits and their families. To begin, these schools first contact the family to lay out the itinerary of the entire visit which can only last 48 hours. The football recruiting programs plan everything from picking you up from your house and taking you to the airport, paying for the recruit and the family to fly, picking you up from their respective airport, taking the family to the hotel, paying for the hotel, all your meals that you enjoy with the coaches and recruiting personnel, and putting every snack imaginable in your awaiting hotel room.

Once at the college, the coaches and recruiting staff lay out all the great aspects of attending their university and football program:

• Academics of the school and support for the student athletes

• Nutrition & Strength Training

• Campus & Football Facility Tours (weight room, locker rooms, dorms, cafeterias, etc.)

• Name, Image & Likeness (NIL) – A branding concept for the athletes

• Scholarship presentations

• Photo shoots of the athlete and their family

This is all accompanied by lavish meals, pool parties at the head coaches’ home, school gear and fancy name tags and some of the nicest folks you will ever meet. Given my disability, all the schools we visited literally took me around with their staff while I was wheelchair bound. An amazing display of servitude!

Again, why blog about this? Because I am so thankful. Thankful for what was done for our son Sebastian and thankful for what they did for our entire Cheeks family. While unconventional, I feel the need to say thank you to these wonderful schools that have meant so much to us. Although our son chose to attend and take his talents to the University of North Carolina (Tar Heels), these other schools deserve our gratitude and thanks:

Wisconsin Badgers You were our first love. Your school is academically sound, your football program is amazing, and your people are as genuine as they come. Coach Chryst, you are an amazing man and I so wish Cole could have played for you AND Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald AND Mack Brown, because the character of you three is unmatched. Coach Bobby April, your relationship with Sebastian means so much to him and to our family. Thank you for your care for our son. Eric Johnson, you were more than exceptional, and you represent Wisconsin with all the best there is to give!

Notre Dame – Boy do you guys know how to do things. What a powerful tradition and all you shared was upstanding! Brian Kelly is an all-star and so well respected, and the Cheeks family is so honored that you recruited our son Sebastian for a school of such esteem. Coach Marcus Freeman, we felt a special bond with you and so many things our families have in common. We wish you much success in your career. Nick Lezynski, your follow through was impeccable and the football staff at Notre Dame made us feel like royalty.

Oregon Ducks – I have never seen anything quite so impressive. Your football program is on the next level and your personnel is poised and extremely talented. Coach Cristobal, you have accomplishes so much already in your time with the Ducks. Ken Wilson, you were an absolute blessing to us. I enjoyed every communication we had, and you are so full of life and vitality! Oregon is far from us and my health is a challenge for that distance, but you guys made this a tough decision. We so appreciated your ingenuity in making Rebecca and I feel included from afar in Sebastian’s visit.

Texas Longhorns – Everything is big in Texas! And that was our experience. We felt your presence as you made it known with every communication and expression of praise for our son Sebastian. You simply made our family feel like Sebastian was your only recruit. The team of Taylor (❤️), Coach Choate, Coach Sark were welcoming, very proficient and engaging for the Longhorns.

Michigan Wolverines – What a tradition of excellence! Everything about your offerings were top notch and bore a strong legacy. I have watched and followed Coach Harbaugh for many years. Meeting him was an absolute honor. He was funny, humble, engaging, and very insightful and full of confidence for his program. Coach Helow is off the charts in character and relationship building. And DeAnna is wonderful and Sydney and Christina are such great ambassadors for the football program at Michigan. Thank you!

North Carolina Tar Heels – Well, what can I say? How super spectacular you are! Cole said YES to you. Our entire family said YES to you. You accepted Cole (Sebastian) into your business school and gave him an internship. Coach Tommy Thigpen treated him like a son and Alex made our daughter Olivia her little sister. Coach Brown and his wife Sally sealed it with their integrity, spirituality and warmth. You took care of me for nine days while I recovered in the UNC Hospital. God gave us clarity with you like no other.

Yes, I have devoted an entire blog to this process because it changed the lives of the Cheeks’ family like we desire to change the lives of those affiliated with our Dayenu Ministry. To these schools and your administrations, we give a hearty thanks and appreciation for all you have done. We forever will be fans!

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