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Through My Eyes: Zach Kerr's background gives holiday season special meaning

Posted Nov 23, 2017

Defensive end Zach Kerr explains why he's thankful this holiday season.

When I was a kid, dealing with homelessness and the other struggles I went through didn’t seem too tough.

Looking back now it’s like, “Ah, man. We went through that?” But when I was young, it wasn’t too bad, because I didn’t know any other way. What we had is what we had, and anybody that told us we didn’t have much, I didn’t believe them. I always had food, I always had clothes, I always had a roof over my head at the end of the day. I guess the situation made me work a little bit harder, but being homeless and less fortunate growing up, there’s a lot of people dealing with stuff like that. I think it’s just something that makes your character a little bit stronger.

Most of the time around the holidays, though, we were around other family members. We would probably go to extended family like an auntie’s or an uncle’s house. Growing up, holidays weren’t too tough, because my mom always made sure we got that experience. When I was young, I was more worried about other stuff. My mom did as much as she could for us around the holidays, and I felt like she did a good enough job. It was fine. I don’t think it was bad at all, to be honest with you.

I have a very big appreciation for her and what she did. I try to repay her every day. I wake up trying to come out here and bust my tail at work and provide for her and my family, as well. I just remember her working hard, so now I work hard so she doesn’t have to.

For me, this time of the year is somewhat sad, because a lot of my family members died in November and December. My father was murdered in December. I had an uncle who also passed away in December. He was my favorite uncle, and he was my father figure after my father died. This time of the year is a little melancholy for me, because there are a lot of things other than the holidays that took place. But now that I’m older, it’s a little bit better. Because I can look at it and be a little more mature about it. Growing up, though, that was a little tough.

But I still have an appreciation for this time of year and what other people are going through. Sometimes, all you need is to be around people. Whether you’re celebrating a holiday or whatever it is, this is the holiday season. It’s good to be around people and that good energy and that good spirit. I’m a big advocate for energy and spirit. I really, truly believe that the holiday season is a good season just because it’s filled with so much joy.

A normal Thanksgiving at the Kerr household features a lot of Jamaican food. Ox tail, curry goat, curry chicken, rice, plantains, jerk chicken. You name it, we’ve got it all.

Last year all my family came into town — we had like 20 people. But this year we won’t do anything. I just had a baby, so we’re just chilling.

When they were here, it was great to be able to say, “I had people over at my house for the holidays.” That’s kind of cool, being 27 years old and owning your own home. Stuff like that doesn’t happen every day, so it’s pretty cool to be able to say, “We’re having Thanksgiving at my house. It’s mine.”

I never would’ve dreamed about that when I was a kid. My mom and I talk about that all the time. Nobody knew I was going to the NFL, because I didn’t start playing football until my junior year of high school. It’s still kind of surreal to me.

This year, I’m most thankful for my son. He’s given me a new perspective on life. He’s allowed me to be more patient. He’s teaching me what it actually means to be a man — not just pay bills and taxes. I actually have responsibility and purpose, and that’s why I’m thankful for my son. I really feel like he’s going to make me a better person.

And as I look back at everything in my life, it’s good to know he’s already taken care of when he turns 18. That’s one of the things I always told myself. Since my father wasn’t in my life, because of a situation, when I did have a child, I would always be in his life and make sure he didn’t have to go through the things I went through growing up. I’m excited to see him grow up.

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