“Being in the NFL,” he said, “you become a role model to a lot of people.”
One of those people sat a day earlier in the booth of a Greensboro, N.C., burger joint. Noah Amerson was on his lunch break from the construction site across the street, and he spent the hour describing how, even though Noah is six years older than his brother, he nonetheless looks up to David.
“We went two different routes,” Noah said, picking at his food. “My brother, he stayed on the right path. He made it.”
Noah, 27, isn’t proud of these facts, but they are undeniable: His athletic career and life were interrupted by bad choices and a 16-month prison term. He missed important moments with his family, and whatever promise he once carried was lost to a youth filled with mistakes.
Motivation sometimes comes from unusual places, and each brother said the other serves as an example. David, 21, said he has reached the NFL in part because he learned from his brother years ago what not to do; Noah said his brother’s success reminds him daily to make the right decisions — because the alternative could mean being absent from moments such as those already lost.
Years ago, two paths diverged. Now the men traveling them are trying to learn from each other.
“We’re brothers,” Noah said, “but we’ve experienced two different things in life.”
‘I was always behind him’
The boy used to follow his brother everywhere. To the gym, to Noah’s girlfriend’s house, to the basketball court.
“I was always behind him,” David recalled.
Noah tried often to go solo, but their mother, Tawanna, wanted them to spend time together. The family had moved often — Noah was born in Bethesda, and the boys’ father, Efland, had been stationed at the Marine Corps base at Quantico before they moved to New York and then Hawaii. Then the parents divorced. Tawanna, who moved her sons to Greensboro after the divorce, wanted to see the brothers together.
“A way of staying connected,” she recalled.
David mimicked his older brother, playing the same sports Noah liked and turning away from his soft-spoken nature because Noah was a class clown. Wasn’t he supposed to be, too?
“A lot of things he has in him,” David said, “I have in me.”
Noah started smoking in high school, an obstacle for his own football career, and he eventually discovered drugs. Looking back, Noah didn’t want to discuss the specific mistakes he had made; he said only that he “made some bad choices,” though public records show a cluster of gun- and drug-related arrests.
In those later years, David kept following his brother. Only this time, Noah pushed back on his mother’s wishes. There were things Noah didn’t want David to witness, things he hoped David wouldn’t be exposed to — despite their prevalence where they grew up.