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On Mother's Day, a Bittersweet Break

While NFL rookie and Silver Spring native Darrius Heyward-Bey will leave town for his new carrer, he'll carry a strong connection to his mother, Vivian, with him.

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By Avis Thomas-Lester
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 10, 2009

Vivian Heyward-Bey put her hands to her ears to drown out the racket. A boisterous group had gathered at the home of a longtime friend to find out where her son, Darrius, would be working, at least for the next few years.

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His best friends were there, as was his surrogate big brother, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Devard Darling, all watching the TV.

The room went quiet when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to the microphone:

"With the seventh pick of the 2009 NFL draft, the Oakland Raiders select Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver, Maryland."

His friends roared. His aunt screamed. Darrius grabbed his mother in a bear hug.

In that moment, her only child became a celebrity, a certain multimillionaire, a 22-year-old professional football player -- the payoff for her hard work and decision to accept a full scholarship for him at a boarding school eight years ago.

Vivian was left with the realization that her son would be leaving home for good.

Today is the first Mother's Day they have spent apart. On Thursday, Darrius reported to the Raiders minicamp. He plans to move to California from his home in Silver Spring next month.

After Darrius's Beninese father returned to Africa when he was a few months old, it has been just the two of them. Darrius knows it will be harder for her than for him. He has his new life in California. New digs. Plays to memorize. Teammates to meet.

"I'm not going to lie. I'm going to miss my kid," said Vivian, 58, an accountant, sitting next to him at their dining room table last week. "I know he's a grown man. I know this is what he has worked for. I'm happy for his success. But I am going to miss him."

Although Darrius lived at the McDonogh School in Owings Mills from Sunday to Thursday, he came home to their Silver Spring apartment most weekends, and she often saw him at his games. While at College Park, he visited often.

The day after she learned that her son would be playing in Oakland, Vivian pulled up the Raiders' 2009-10 schedule. They play at the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants, which will bring him close to home.

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