If DeMatha stars Mark Allen and Taiwan Deal, Potomac first-team All-Met Jerome Dews, and former Forestville running back Rahman Lee had been towing their pads, helmets, and cleats when they got together Monday afternoon at the Washington View apartment complex in D.C., you’d have done well to bet against their opponent.
But the future Penn State (Allen), Wisconsin (Deal), and Tennessee (Dews) stars, and Lee, a current Division II all-American at Glenville State College, weren’t gathering to deliver the kind of spectacular on-field efforts area fans have come to expect over the past few years. Instead, they came to deliver gifts, wisdom, and smiles to the children of 10 families at the complex for whom holiday gifts placed a heavy burden on family finances.
By the end of the afternoon, the line between football star and admiring kids had blurred, both huddled around smartphones checking out Youtube clips and sharing laughs.
“They loved it,” said DeMatha running backs coach Martin Gibson. “At first, I’m not sure they really knew exactly what they were doing, but by the end, I think it really hit home for them.”
Gibson is the man who brought Allen, Deal, Dews and Lee together. A three-sport star at Central High School who played four years of football at Villanova, he’s provided physical training for local athletes since 2006, and started his own company to help develop local athletes — Constantly Making a Difference — in 2011. He co-founded the organization with Marcus Bell, a 2001 Suitland grad who studied sport management at the University of Michigan and worked in player development with the Detroit Lions for the year. While Gibson provides physical training for athletes, Bell tutors them in their mental approach to the game and how to conduct themselves on and off the field.
Gibson’s grandmother, Edith Hackett, started the neighborhood watch in the Washington View apartment complex, as well as a program for battered women and a tenant committee that helped families in the community struggling to pay rent around the holidays make ends meet until they could afford to pay. Hackett also raised money to buy holiday gifts for families in the complex, and brought in a local Santa to deliver them. Years later, Gibson’s renewed that tradition, though instead of Santa, he’s done his grandmother one better, having role models deliver not only gifts, but advice, to children in the complex.
“It was amazing,” said Gibson, who asked each family what its children might like for Christmas and tried to collect the gifts from friends, family, or local businesses, or buy the gifts the children wanted.
“The guys took pictures with the kids, talked to the kids, and then some of the guys spoke to the kids, talked to them about going to school, staying in school, and doing the right thing, stuff like that.”
NUMBER CRUNCH: 0
Number of local games scheduled for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Happy Holidays!
— Deal and Allen’s DeMatha classmates and Dews’s Potomac (Md.) friends are impressing on the basketball court so far this season. Check out where both teams fall in the Post’s most recent rankings, released yesterday.
— Deal and Dews featured on this season’s All-Met First Team offense and defense, respectively. If you missed it, see who joined them here.
— In a matchup of the No. 1 Paul VI girls and No. 2 St. John’s Monday, the Panthers affirmed their ranking with their first win over the Cadets since 2006.
PHOTOS FROM LAST NIGHT:
VIDEO OF THE DAY:
Last weekend was a fun-filled DMV basketball extravaganza. See which plays made the cut as the best of the week: