By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
PASADENA — Kevon Seymour was in the middle of his speech thanking family, friends, coaches and teammates after he was officially invited Tuesday afternoon to play in January’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
The room grew silent as Seymour — standing at the podium with half a dozen cameras pointing his way — did his best to gather himself when it came time to thank his mother, Veronica Starling Donald.
The long pause was followed by an impromptu applause that only seemed to fuel Seymour’s overwhelming emotions.
“I didn’t expect to go up there and cry in front of my teammates and reporters,” Seymour said. “I got up there and it hit me. I couldn’t say a word. I had to pause or else I wasn’t going to be able to finish.”
He looked back at his mother and offered a smile.
“I got teary-eyed myself,” Veronica said. “Even though he’s an adult he’s still my baby. I was really happy for him. He had happy tears, so it was good.”
There’s plenty for Seymour to be thankful for. The four-star recruit is the No. 9-rated cornerback in the nation according to Rivals and he’s the No. 85 overall rated player in the nation. Seymour has over a dozen offers from some of the finest college football programs in the nation, including Florida, Nebraska and a handful of Pac-12 schools.
Seymour’s rise to elite status started in the rough and humble upbringing in the housing project Community Arms, better known as Snake Pits to those who live there inspite of a strong presence of drugs and gang violence. It’s one of, if not the most, dangerous housing projects in Northwest Pasadena that also includes Kings Village. For 17 years, Seymour has called this place home.
“It’s called the Snake Pits because of the fighting and gang violence that goes on in there,” said Seymour, who carries a cummulitive 3.2 GPA. “I grew up there, my mother lived there and my mother’s mother grew up there. So we have history. It’s been hard because of the influence around me.
“I could have easily been sucked into that kind of life, but I wasn’t because I’m a leader not a follower.”
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Veronica worked long hours as a nurse, doing as best she could to raise Seymour and his twin brother, Keon, an outstanding baseball player. Then she met and married Ronnie Donald about four years ago, who has since provided Seymour the peace of mind he’d long been hoping Donald could provide not just to him but also his mother. Seymour grew emotional describing his parents peaceful and happy relationship.
“She’s been working so hard for so many years,” Seymour said. “Since Ronnie Donald came along, my stepdad, it made everything so much easier. I see how he respects her and never once raising his voice. You don’t see them arguing at all, and I have a baby sister now. Everything’s been running smoothly and going good for us.”
That’s an understatement.
Seymour — a special teams nightmare for defensive coordinators and show-stopping cornerback — will play in front of a national audience on NBC, becoming the first player in Muir’s storied football history to earn U.S. Army All-American honors. He joins Monrovia’s Ellis McCarthy as the only duo from the San Gabriel Valley ever to be selected U.S. Army All-Americans in the same year. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl has produced 49 NFL first rounders, including seven Super Bowl champions, 30 Pro Bowl selections and five Rookies of the Year. It’s also produced a Heisman Trophy winner in Florida’s Tim Tebow.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that this all started when Seymour was a 6-year-old playing pop warner football.
“I never envisioned any of this,” Veronica said. “I know he’s always been a good athlete, but I never knew it was going to go this far.
“It’s just unbelievable. It’s like I have to pinch myself to see if it’s a dream, and no, it’s real.”
Seymour’s press conference also was attended by his girlfriend Tori Floyd, Muir offensive coordinator Antoine Sims and Muir interim head coach Dave Mitchell.
He thanked Mitchell for his long but worthy motivational speeches, to which Seymour said “he just starts preaching.”
Seymour also made sure to thank Sims and former Muir cornerbacks coach Drew Peterson, who along with Sims drove Seymour and former teammate and cousin DaiDai McFadden to Cal’s football camp last summer. Sims, with help from Peterson, helped put together Seymour’s highlight reel that landed on the desk of major Division I football coaches.
“He did all of that,” Seymour said. “And he’s not even the head coach. Both of them have been there and close to me all of my high school years.”
Seymour, who said he’s not narrowed his list of school choices and soon will make official visits to Florida, Washington, Oregon, Cal and Utah, also went out of his way to thank head coach Ken Howard, who couldn’t attend because he’s on administrative leave.
“Coach Howard helped me a lot and to stay disciplined,” Seymour said. “He’s been there since the start.”
When the press conference was over, Seymour posed with friends and teammates for pictures. Some pulled out their cell phones to snap photos of only Seymour, as if to capture a moment before Seymour hits it big in college, and, perhaps, the NFL. Soaking it all in and beaming with pride was Veronica who watched from a distance with a smile a mile wide.
“I’m just really happy,” she said. “Just really happy.”