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Anticipatory eyes were glued to a 9-month-old Javonte Williams.
Here he was, ready to try to take his first uncertain steps. He could pull himself up onto his feet with the help of furniture or his parents, but the next part — staying upright — proved much harder.
When Javonte didn't appear to be making any progress, his parents, Jermaine and Shekemia, turned from expectant to worried. They tried standing their son on his feet for him, and he would just immediately fall.
Increasingly concerned about their little "bobblehead," as Jermaine called him, they took him to the doctor. Javonte had been having some trouble with ear infections, and his inner ear, they learned, was not draining fluid properly, which threw off his equilibrium.
The next day, they returned to have a doctor insert tubes that would resolve the problem and eventually fall out on their own.
"By the end of the week, he was walking," Shekemia says. "… Once he got those tubes, he got up and got moving. Had his balance ever since."
The story sticks in their minds nearly 20 years, because Javonte's ability to keep his feet in even the most challenging situations has become the trademark characteristic for one of the NFL's most promising young players. Last fall, Von Miller admitted he once tried to trip Javonte in the hallway just to see if it was possible. It wasn't.
And so Jermaine and Shekemia can't help but wonder: Maybe those tubes worked too well.
All they can do is just laugh and shake their heads, like everyone does.
At some point, everyone who watches Javonte play can't help but do that, and that's especially true for the residents of Wallace, North Carolina, where he grew up. They shook their heads watching him play rec-league football and watching him score six touchdowns in a game at 8 or 9 years old. They shook their heads when he went from a state-champion inside linebacker to running back and ran for more than 2,000 yards. And they shook their heads when they watched him go essentially unrecruited by Division-I schools in spite of everything their eyes told them.
These days, they're still shaking their heads, though it's now mostly just at the thought that the boy they knew as "Pookie" — the quiet child who grew to become the high school's valedictorian — made it to the NFL from their humble town.