Giants’ Gary Brightwell overcame tragedies to achieve NFL dream

Carla Young pulled out the household Bible — now 10 generations outdated — and eliminated a slip of paper not seen by her son in 15 years.

In the empty house after “I want to be …” created a world of potentialities, kindergarten-aged Gary Brightwell wrote, “A football player to play pro football.” He introduced it residence to his mom, who saved it securely till it was time to journey from her Delaware residence to Brightwell’s NFL draft get together at a rented Airbnb in Orlando. That’s the place 30 household and pals celebrated Brightwell’s sixth-round selection by the Giants on May 1.

“I knew since the day I [was born],” Brightwell informed The Post. “My 1-year-old picture is of me holding a football.”

Sometimes, desires come true with years of dedication. Sometimes, tragedy strikes with out warning. Brightwell’s life is the intersection of the 2.

As pressure gave method to hugs and high-fives, the presence of three folks lacking from that get together might be felt: A father murdered at a gasoline station when Brightwell was 5 months outdated, an older sister killed in a automobile crash when he was a senior in highschool and a grandmother who taught him how to play soccer as a method of conserving him secure. She died simply weeks earlier than the draft.

“I never cried when my husband died because I didn’t have time for tears when I had kids to raise,” Young, Brightwell’s mother, stated. “The day Gary got drafted I cried for the funeral, I cried for my husband, I cried for everything I’ve never cried for all these years. I don’t know what it was tears of, but they wouldn’t stop coming. And it felt amazing.”

Giants rookie Gary Brightwell
Giants rookie Gary Brightwell as a child along with his father Gary Brightwell Sr.
Courtesy of Carla Young

Brightwell, 23, was born within the Philadelphia suburb of Chester, Pa., a metropolis of not-quite 5 sq. miles the place the murder fee per 1,000 residents ranks second-highest within the nation, in accordance to latest FBI statistics. Twenty-two years in the past, Gary Brightwell Sr. was shot pumping gasoline at a Sunoco in entrance of witnesses, however the case stays unsolved.

“If you look at somebody the wrong way,” Brightwell’s highschool soccer coach J.D. Maull stated, “you might have your life taken away from you in Chester.”

Until she moved her household to Wilmington, Del., Young returned to the gasoline station every single day to say a prayer and to let her husband know she was holding up her finish of their vows.

“When we got married, we made a promise: If anything ever happens to me, you take care of the kids, first and foremost. If anything happens to you, I’ll take care of the kids, first and foremost,’” Young recalled. “You can’t hide from your fears. I couldn’t let it overcome me.”

Brightwell was too younger to retain recollections of his father, however his purpose for the legacy of their shared identify begins anew Friday at Giants rookie minicamp.

“I think about my dad every day, it don’t matter if I’m riding past the gas station or not,” he stated. “It’s like a lost soul, but I know he is living through me right now. Everything you see me in, that’s what he had.”

‘Team Brightwell’

The household motto is written on an indication hanging in Young’s residence.

Team Brightwell, when one’s up, we’re all up, when one’s down, we’re all down

A gifted athlete with no assist system, Brightwell Sr. was a loving father who “had his bouts with the law and was a product of his environment,” Young stated. His dying despatched her again to work and their son to the native athletic fields.

Young was a flight attendant and a paramedic concurrently, later balanced three jobs and in the end grew to become a educated restaurant-contracted and personal chef.

“There were days I went to work in the wrong uniform,” she laughed. “Most of the time, dinner was in the cooler in the trunk. We had more picnics than anybody can imagine.”

Giants Gary Brightwell
Gary Brightwell along with his mother Carla Young on signing day.
Courtesy of Carla Young

All the whereas “Grandma D” — the late Dolores Anderson — stored Brightwell off the streets.

“When she took me outside, she taught me how to play football, basketball, baseball, anything to keep me busy,” Brightwell stated. “She was in love with sports and taught me all the rules. She would tackle me.”

Tackle a 4-year-old? Young received offended about it again then. She laughs at it now. Look the place he ended up.

By 8 years outdated, Brightwell realized being “the man of the house” got here with sure obligations: Take out the trash, wipe down the partitions and examine the oil within the automobiles.

“If I wasn’t playing football, maybe I would’ve been doing something else,” Brightwell stated. “Honestly, football is what brought me out of trouble, made me the person I am today. In the cities of Wilmington and Chester, there is nothing but trouble.”

Giant Destiny?

Ten years in the past, Young was a bridesmaid in her cousin’s marriage ceremony.

“We wore red, white and blue,” she stated. “My family is not just Giants fans. It is really deep that my entire family are like superfans. I don’t know how that began, but I have family with a 12-foot Giants flagpole in front of their house and magnets all over their cars.”

It’s an excessive amount of to say Brightwell’s draft vacation spot was fated. It would possibly shortchange the work he put in to get to this level and ignore that he anticipated to be picked as excessive because the fourth spherical, probably by the Cowboys.

“I know I’m better than where I was drafted,” Brightwell stated. “Of course it’s a dream come true, but I haven’t done anything yet so it means nothing to me right now. It’s just the beginning.”

Brightwell averaged 5.3 yards per carry and scored 10 touchdowns over three seasons in a cut up backfield at Arizona, however he made his draft inventory on particular groups. Giants assistant particular groups coordinator Tom Quinn — an Arizona alum — found Brightwell, and the group’s scouting notes off of pre-draft Zoom calls backed up suggestions from faculty coaches: Excellent soccer IQ, oozes toughness and exhausting work.

Giants coach Joe Judge is one in all two energetic NFL head coaches from a particular groups coordinator background. He is aware of the distinction between rookies repeating traces fed to them — “Whatever it takes to win, coach!” — and Brightwell’s ardour for the “hidden yards” that win video games.

Giants Gary Brightwell
Gary Brightwell runs throughout a sport towards Arizona State on Dec. 11, 2020.

“He got mad at me when I told him I’d only let him play on punt team,” stated former Arizona working backs coach A.J. Steward, now at Oregon State. “You can’t be the starting running back and run down on kickoff team. But that’s how he’s wired. If he knows he can help in a situation, he wants to be the guy to help us win. He’s probably the best I’ve ever coached in that regard.”

Brightwell was a “man among boys” throughout three years at St. George’s Technical School. Even as the very best participant on his highschool group, he couldn’t be satisfied to take a breather. He returned kicks and punts and lined up as a punt gunner.

“When he runs down the field, he runs with a mission,” Maull stated. “He is going to hit you. He’s not playing flag football.”

There’s cause to be offended.

The obstacles Brightwell survived are biking by to his nephew and the twins left parentless when Shanell Brightwell was a passenger in a automobile that misplaced management and struck a utility pole in Chester in 2016. Young, her different two daughters, Sade and Kareena, Gary and 5 different children the household helped increase have stepped up.

It’s like a misplaced soul, however I do know he’s dwelling by me proper now. Everything you see me in, that’s what he had.

Gary Brightwell on his dad, Gary Brightwell Sr.

“My mom’s been my dad my whole life,” Brightwell stated, “but my sister had a big impact on my life because she was my second mom. Whatever answers my mom didn’t have, I went to her. I try to show the kids you just have to be humble, and stay out of the way of trouble and there’s always going to be a light at the end of the tunnel.”

‘Best Man For the Job’

Brightwell accelerated by a gap and raced down the sideline for 34 yards as a former top-100 recruit lower off the angle to cease the play.

“I thought that was one of the best runs I’ve ever seen in my life,” Steward stated of a scene from the 2020 season-opener towards USC, “and he didn’t even want to watch it on film because he thought it was like the most embarrassing thing in the world to get shoved out of bounds by a five-star safety.”

Right then and there Steward realized a basic reality about Brightwell’s delight.

“He doesn’t even want it if it’s just given to him,” Steward stated. “That’s really rare in today’s society. You literally can’t just hand him something and get, ‘Oh, thanks for handing it to me, coach.’ He wants to know the reason you gave me this opportunity is because I earned it. I beat these other guys out, and I was the best man for the job.”

All the makings of the subsequent blue-collar Giants fan favourite are right here. Maybe even the makings of a longtime particular groups standout, like latest Giants Nate Ebner and Michael Thomas, with a job carved out behind working again Saquon Barkley.

First issues first: Make the roster lower as a rookie. Keep writing what Young describes as a “bittersweet story.”

“You don’t bet against Gary Brightwell,” Maull stated. “To know this young man as a 14-year-old with his mind set on going to college, getting a degree, going to the NFL, making his mom proud, to see him do it, the bright lights of New York City are not going to scare him.”

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