It wasn't the five shelters that got to him.
It wasn't the two foster homes or living out of the family car that bothered him the most.
For Richland High School linebacker Jeremiah Tshimanga, it was not being able to be a part of the game he grew up watching and wanting to play that ate at him constantly.
Given the hand he was dealt early in life, Tshimanga probably shouldn't be in the position he is today -- rated as one of the nation's top high school linebackers with a closet full of letters and scholarship offers from the country's top programs.
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But he earned it, plain and simple.
While some would have turned to the enticing vices of the street, Tshimanga relied on his faith, the kindness of others and his love of football to see him through.
His father left the family when Jeremiah was in his third-grade year, and he and his mother moved to a women's shelter, one of many in which they would live over the next several years.
There were times when the family had nowhere to stay and found themselves in parking lots off East Lancaster in Fort Worth.
"One day felt like three," Tshimanga said. "It was a reality check being out there with no food and nowhere to go."
His mother was able to secure an apartment for a time, but when his sister got sick and the bills piled up, the family split up
Tshimanga's brother, one year older and an even better athlete, according to Jeremiah, at 6-foot-7, 300 pounds, gave up football aspirations to take care of their mother and other siblings.
At one point during his seventh-grade year, Tshimanga was living alone at a Salvation Army Center.
"Sometimes my family was there, sometimes they weren't," Tshimanga said about his time at the center, where he would check in at night to receive a mat to sleep on and a meal.
"From when I was 12 until my sophomore year, I went to bed crying every night until things got right in my life.
"I went to five different schools my seventh- and eighth-grade years. I didn't even have a chance to even think about playing football at that time," he said. "I didn't think I was even going to be able to graduate high school."
Finally, a chance to play showed itself during the last game of the season as an eighth-grader. Tshimanga blocked a punt and returned it 60 yards for a score. He said he knew then his future was in football.
But he still didn't have a stable living environment.
Tshimanga lived briefly with a foster family from Oak Cliff he describes as "lovely," then had another stay with his mother, until the family of a friend, fellow Richland standout linebacker Michael Knobloch, took him in.
"He had so much going for him, I didn't want that to all go sideways for him," said Stacy Knobloch-Wade, Michael's mom. "He's got his head on straight and he sees the big picture."
Stacy and Richard Wade, her husband, opened their home to Tshimanga two years ago, and he has lived with them since. He has his own room with a television, posters on the wall and all the other stuff most teenagers take for granted.
"Jeremiah is a good kid," Richard said. "He has taken the right steps in life, and I really think if he maintains the course, I have no doubt that he will be playing in the NFL one day. He's too driven and focused."
Since making the move, Tshimanga, 17, said he put it on himself to help others the same way he was helped and treated.
He worked as a landscaper last summer to help offset his expenses and, during the holiday season, he and some friends helped raise more than $1,000 for a family that needed help and for Toys for Tots.
But his main focus has always been football.
As a sophomore in 2009, Tshimanga was already a fixture on Richland's linebacking corps, earning district honors as defensive sophomore of the year.
Last season, the 6-foot-3, 230-pound daily workout warrior racked up 69 tackles, 13 for loss. Those stats, combined with his imposing physique and all-around skill set, led to offers from Texas A&M, where assistant coach Dat Nguyen recruited him, along with Nebraska, Michigan, Oregon, Alabama and Auburn, to name a few.
He committed to Oklahoma State, where he will join former Richland linebacker and friend Nico Ornelas. Last month Tshimanga was named a high school Butkus Award finalist, given to the nation's top linebacker. He was also nominated to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
"He had to grow up sooner than a boy that age needs to grow up," Richland coach Gene Wier said. "The game didn't necessarily come easy to him, but he worked at it extremely hard.
"Some kids have had advanced training from the time they are little, but he is relatively new to the game. He is nowhere near peaking, and I won't be surprised to see him playing on the Sunday level."
Pretty good for a kid who thought he might never see the field.
Matthew Reagan, 817-390-7760