Ex-Northwestern Football Player Jaquan Leonard Didn't Deserve to Die

Jaquan Lenard, a former Northwestern High football player, was shot and killed in Liberty City this weekend.
Jaquan Lenard, a former Northwestern High football player, was shot and killed in Liberty City this weekend.
Image courtesy Jacquan Leonard's family

Jaquan Lenard did not deserve to die on a Liberty City street corner. The 21-year-old Miami Northwestern Senior High alum was one of two young African-Americans shot dead this past weekend; another is in critical condition.

Just a couple of years ago, he was among the most dedicated players on one of the state's best football teams. A linebacker, he never missed practice. He wasn't the best player on the squad, so he didn't get much playing time. He didn't dream of playing in the NFL, but he believed football was his ticket to a higher education. Like many Miami kids, he thought football was the path to a better life.

But the college scouts passed on him. There was no scholarship offer.

I coached Jaquan when I was defensive coordinator for the Northwestern football team from 2011 to 2013. He was like a lot of kids: Once they find out they can't use the sport to leave the inner city, they think there's nothing else they can do. You can see the disappointment in their eyes.

Jaquan deserved more opportunities than just football. There should have been another way out.

That's why I'm tired of hearing politicians pay no more than lip service to the need for ending the gun violence ravaging Miami's black neighborhoods. Every time a kid is fatally shot, county leaders are quick to empathize. But how about doing something about it?

Ex-Northwestern Football Player Jaquan Leonard Didn't Deserve to Die (2)

Stop all the meetings and follow this three-point plan:

1. Teach kids trades at school the way we did long ago. They won't end up in gangs if they learn plumbing, air-conditioning repair, or auto mechanics in school. Construction and hairstyling are real skills that lead to real jobs.

2. Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and county judges need to enforce the 10-20-Life law that sends kids to jail for life if they are involved in multiple shootings or other violent crimes. There are laws on the books; they just aren't being enforced.

3. We need to bring back former Miami-Dade County Public Schools Police Chief Gerald Darling, who is now the chief for Shelby County schools in Tennessee. When Darling was a Miami Police assistant chief, he helped dismantle Miami's inner-city drug gangs in the late '90s. The city should rehire him to do it again. His connection with the feds might just scare some of those violent teens straight.

It's time to do something so Jaquan's death was not in vain.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.


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