Robert Way gets serious for Glades Central as Raiders prepare for state championship
Thursday, December 10, 2009
by Jason Lieser
(Damon Higgins / The Post)
The transformation of Robert Way began last spring in a white, metal-sided portable classroom behind Glades Central High School.
The building, which the Raiders normally use for watching game film, was the site of an intervention staged by his mother and several coaches that compelled Way to tears and was the catalyst for his development into one of the area's elite defensive ends.
Glades Central coach Jessie Hester said Way was on the brink of becoming just another 6-foot-2, 190-pound thug roaming the streets of Belle Glade. Part of Way wanted that life, actually. Stealing and fighting were viable paths to notoriety and it sounded easier than grinding through long, humid football practices.
But in that room, a short walk from the Raiders' practice field, Way was overcome by love and support. He recommitted himself and helped propel the Raiders to Saturday's Class 2A state championship at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. Glades Central will face Cocoa at 7 p.m. in a battle of 13-0 powers.
"If that had never happened, I'd probably still be getting in trouble," Way said of the meeting in the film room. "That incident could've ended my career."
Instead, it kick-started him. Way, a junior, did not lock up a starting spot until the first week of the season, but he has been the best player on a defense that held nine opponents to 10 points or fewer. Way took down Tampa-Robinson quarterback Blake Rice five times last week, pushing his season total to 24 sacks, breaking the previous school record of 22 set by former Florida star and current San Francisco 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald, Jr. in 2001.
"I would have never seen this coming, not in a million years," Glades Central Assistant Principal Don Hoffman said. "If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season if Robert Way would do this, I would say you're crazy. He's proven a lot of people wrong."
It's easy to see why Hoffman, who has worked closely with Way during his resurgence, doubted this outcome.
As a sophomore, Way was a problematic student and an undedicated JV player brimming with anger. His behavior deteriorated to the point that his mother, Shawanna Evans, considered transferring him to Wellington High to get him away from bad influences.
The transgression that prompted the film room sit-down was the latest in a string of missteps, but it was Way's worst offense. He attacked a fellow student near the practice field and stole his iPod.
Way said police came to his home and he would have faced felony charges if Hoffman had not mediated the conflict with the victim's family.
"Everybody was disappointed," Way said, his voice wavering. "I thought it was over for me.
"I used to get in trouble just to do it. I was trying to be known and get popular. The popular kids were all the ones who got in trouble. They were always known and always with girls. My momma always told me I could do better, but it went in one ear and out the other."
In class, he hovered around a 2.0 grade point average. By contrast, Way posted a 3.1 in the first nine weeks of this school year.
"Not only is he the best d-end I've seen in a long time, but he's very advanced," defensive line coach Sherman Adams said. "I don't know too many 11th-grade kids taking trigonometry courses."
Way, 17, said he currently has an A in trig and also is enrolled in English and science honors classes.
But his transition is ongoing. He said he still has ties to some of the friends his coaches advised him to drop.
And he knows he needs to step up his training regiment if he wants to play in college.
For a defensive end, Way has the frame but lacks the necessary bulk and has drawn little attention from colleges. His wingspan is an imposing 80 inches, but he is 45 pounds lighter than Glades Central's other defensive end, BCS prospect Isiah Corbett, who is 6-foot-1.
"If he hits the weights and goes to camps, everybody in the country will want him," said Corbett, a senior with 12 sacks.
Way reluctantly attended Glades Central's weight room sessions last summer, but said he showed up in flip flops and spent most of that time idling on a couch.
He regrets it now and promised the upcoming off-season will be different.
"All the things I didn't do, I'm going to improve," Way said. "I'm going to hit the weight room hard. I'm going to get my teammates ready, too.
"Now I'm really interested. I found out what I could do and I see where I could go."