Get out to Weatherford and you might see some of the high school football players partaking in community service, helping around the neighborhood or visiting with younger kids.
You will always see Dezmond Forrest out there somewhere.
“He’s always the first to volunteer,” Weatherford coach Billy Mathis said. “He’s a good leader and a magnet for people. Kids will come up the field house all the time and ask, ‘Where’s Dez?’ He’s that type of kid.”
It’s a two-way street for Forrest. Sure, he helps out the youth. But they help him as well.
“The community is behind me and Coach Mathis made me feel at home since the first day,” Forrest added. “I love helping those kids too. They impact me on a whole different level.”
Forrest’s story wasn’t always ideal.
He moved to Weatherford at the end of his freshman year from Fort Worth Arlington Heights, living, at the time, in a rough part of Fort Worth.
His mom knew he needed a change.
“I had lived with my dad and there were some things in the neighborhood that I didn’t feel comfortable with,” said Forrest, a junior running back. “Then I moved in with my mom and we were in a bad spot at the time. I knew in order for me to be successful, it wasn’t the best place for me.”
Forrest’s uncle, who lives in Weatherford, decided it was best for Dez to live with his family.
“My uncle gave me an opportunity to live with them. He wanted to give me a chance to become a better athlete and a better person,” Forrest said. “My mom was totally on board with the whole thing and was proud of my decision.”
His next challenge was playing football.
Forrest started when he was 8, but has always been the smallest. He’s listed at 5-foot-7.
“The first time I saw him, he was kind of skinny, but he has always been very happy go-lucky,” Mathis said. “Bounces around, great energy. We ran some drills and he was explosive. He’s a good athlete.
“He wants to play college ball and knows he’s undersized. But he outworks everybody and tries to set himself apart from everyone else. He has speed, good football IQ and his natural instinct is as good as I’ve been around, but his biggest impact is his attitude.”
Forrest will tell you, it’s all about heart over height.
“I’m the smallest, but I like to play the biggest. I run fast, run hard because if I play small, people take advantage of it so my mindset is all heart.”
Forrest made his varsity debut on Friday at Granbury and completely went off.
He rushed 18 times for 289 yards and seven touchdowns and made five catches for 187 yards with two touchdowns. He accounted for 476 yards, nine total TDs and two 2-point conversions.
According to Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, his 58 points scored are fourth most in a single 11-man game in state history and the most since 1941. The other three are Pilot Point’s Jiggs Ray (75 vs. Tom Bean in 1937), Spur’s Jim Hahn (60 vs. Lorenzo in 1930) and Columbus’ Billy Gunn (59 vs. Flatonia in 1941).
The Kangaroos beat the Pirates 81-40, their most points scored since 1935.
Not too shabby.
“No doubt it blew my mind when I looked at the dates on those records,” Forrest said. “I was speechless when someone told me what I had just accomplished and how long ago something like that has happened.”
“Huge turnaround,” Mathis added. “Other guys in his situation might get lost or give up on everything. Dez refused to give up on his dreams and his teammates.”
Not the only one
Forrest isn’t the only one that found his calling at Weatherford.
Senior linebacker Keehlyn Howard moved from Wichita Falls last January, but he didn’t have an easy childhood either. His dad is in prison and mom hasn’t been in his life in years.
But Howard wanted another opportunity at football.
“Everyone that meets Keehlyn loves him. Very kind-hearted with a happy demeanor,” Mathis said. “He has a purpose in life and he’s very focused on what it is. He’s going to be a contributor for us. He’s a good football player. Now that he’s been in the program for while and has come out of his shell, he’s that vocal leader on defense we were looking for.
“Such a hard worker and wants to play in college. He wants to be the first in his family to go to college. He had a rough upbringing, but he doesn’t make that an excuse. He doesn’t feel sorry about himself. Very happy he’s here and I expect big things.”
That’s when Dustin Taylor chipped in as well.
“You know someone is special and a good person when you meet them, and that was Keehlyn,” said Taylor.
Taylor has a son Cayde that’s a starting offensive lineman, who has been traveling the country to various college camps and getting offers.
Keehlyn wanted that too, but couldn’t afford it.
“He said he didn’t have the money to go, so I said I’d pay for him. Just show up to the house,” Taylor said. “We got to know him a lot while driving around. Being successful is important to him and what drives him.”
Helping the program
Mari McGuire runs her sports academy five miles down the road from the high school. She trains Vanderbilt commit Ken Seals, Weatherford’s 4-star quarterback.
She also got a chance to train Howard.
“Keehlyn was always hungry to get better and work on his own. A very likable and well-mannered young man,” McGuire said. “He’s coachable and a naturally gifted athlete. He’s going to be a huge addition to the Weatherford program.”
Added Seals, “All I can say about Dez and Keehlyn is that I know Weatherford would be in a much different place without them. Both of them add their own character and playing style to the team and that’s what’s going to put us over the top this season.”