The sacrifice was too great, and fulfilling the promise is a matter of family obligation for Jamal Reynolds.
Sure, there was temptation to ride his three-sack performance in the Sugar Bowl into a multi-million dollar NFL contract, but the oath prevailed. Memories of his deceased great-grandmother sprang to mind. He knew his only option was to return to Florida State to complete his sports management degree.
The former Aiken High standout and Seminoles' junior defensive end remembered Mary Burrell's sole wish for the children in her family. As her 101-year life came to an end two years ago, a pledge was made that all of her survivors would earn a college degree.
Ultimately, that promise cemented his decision to remain in school. Informal inquiries by Bill Reynolds, Jamal's father, had revealed that his son likely would be a mid-first round selection in the NFL draft April 15.
Bill Reynolds said another year of college ball will boost his son's NFL stock and fulfill the pact.
"I told him, `I hope you do make millions, but you have to remember an old woman who sacrificed her whole life so that her children and their children could get an education,"' Bill Reynolds said.
Jamal Reynolds led the National Champion Seminoles with 10 sacks last season. He appears destined to continue FSU's tradition of sending dominant defensive ends to the NFL.
The significance of a quality education has been ingrained in Reynolds. The message was passed down generational lines from the family matriarch, who never made it past the second grade.
"I always promised her that I would, and all my children would as well," Bill Reynolds said.
The younger Reynolds likely will skip the spring semester following his senior season to prepare for the 2001 draft. He has vowed to complete the requirements for his degree in subsequent summers.
Reynolds emphasizes academic success along with athletic ability when he speaks to children in North Augusta and Aiken.
"One of the main things I stress is to make good grades and stay in school," Jamal Reynolds said. "If you don't have the grades, you won't get a scholarship."
He's heard the same advice from his family his entire life. Not facing the financial burden placed on many young potential pros, Reynolds is hoping to improve his pass rush and be a top-three pick in next year's draft.
"There's no pressure on Jamal to go pro," Bill Reynolds said. "There's nothing on Jamal for financial help. I told (my four kids), I want (them to) take care of themselves. I can take care of myself."
Jamal is the youngest of four Reynolds children. Diron was a linebacker at Wake Forest and now coaches that position for the Demon Deacons. Rashad lettered at Rice and still is pursuing a pro career. Sister Dekefha graduated from South Carolina and now teaches at Aiken High School.
Along with education, Bill Reynolds encourages his children to pass on their stories of success with the youth of their hometown.
"It's fun to see him pass it on to the younger generation," Bill Reynolds said. "He'll never forget (his community). That's something that I planted in them since they were kids, never to forget where they came from."
Reach Jimmy DeButts at (706) 823-3221.
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