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Isaiah says it was his mother, Margaret, who kept the family's spirits alive. "My mom got me through everything. I think her love to us is a testament of what love can do," he says. "She gave me the attitude that I can conquer anything."

By age 9, Isaiah says he was determined to live a better life. "That was my dream growing up," he says. "I wanted a wife. A dog. A white picket fence. Your 2.5 kids. I just wanted a normal life that I saw my friends have."

He knew that college would be his ticket out of poverty and that football would get him there. Throughout high school, Isaiah set out to become the perfect student and athlete. He worked out at 5 a.m., and then went straight to school to ask his teachers questions. "If I didn't understand something, I was going to make them explain until I understood each problem," Isaiah says. "I knew I might fall short on some things, but it wasn't going be because I didn't work hard enough."
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FROM: Why They Beat the Odds
Published on March 01, 2007

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