Running back Quinton Ganther makes the most of his chance with the Redskins

By Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 27, 2009

Because mothers don't forget such things easily, Brenda Ganther still recalls the day her son was arrested. Quinton Ganther was a teenager getting swallowed whole by the ravenous street cracks of Richmond, Calif., when he was busted for selling marijuana. Brenda Ganther knew what path her son was on. Her own footprints, in fact, were still quite visible on that very path.

"I called my pastor and said, 'I'm losing him. I need help,' " Brenda Ganther said. "I was determined to fight for my son. I refused to lose him to those streets. I knew that if God could change me, He could change my son."

It's easier to talk about now. Brenda Ganther says she has been clean since 1996. And Henry Ganther says he has been clean since 1998. But Brenda Ganther still cries when she sees her son in a football uniform -- doesn't matter if it's a photo from Fairfield High or a burgundy-and-gold Washington Redskins jersey. When she looks back over what Ganther came from and what he has overcome, she's reminded of her own past.

"I was there physically, but I wasn't there mentally or emotionally," Brenda Ganther says now.

Crack was the drug of choice in Richmond, Calif., and its ardent devotees spent every waking hour either high or trying to get high. That meant Brenda and Henry Ganther, parents of four children, were in and out of trouble, in and out of jail, and in Henry's case, in and out of prison.

By the age of 7, Quinton Ganther was cooking and caring for himself and his younger sister. With no one to watch over him, he'd come and go as he pleased, taking his cues from the wrong neighborhood influences.

Before he was even a teenager, Ganther had a reputation as a kid best avoided. Gerald Montgomery jokes that when he first spotted an 11-year-old Ganther at a park near his home, other kids were lining up to tie Ganther's shoes.

"I was a bit of a bully," Ganther says today with a slight grin.

But Montgomery saw something beyond the tough exterior. With a middle-class family and a modest home, Montgomery and his wife, Shannon, already had eight children of their own. But with an open bunk bed, they invited Ganther into their lives.

With his father usually locked up, Ganther spent his adolescent years shuttling between his mother's lawless home and the Montgomery's, where discipline and love greeted visitors at the front door.

By the time Ganther entered high school, Gerald Montgomery had managed to enroll the neighborhood bully in youth sports, where Ganther thrived. Still, a young Ganther kept a foot in the streets.

"I think because he never really had a childhood -- it was taken from him because of my actions and his father's actions," Brenda Ganther said, "he became a teenager and suddenly wanted to catch up on lost time and act irresponsibly."

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