It’s 5 a.m. And while most of us are sound asleep, the day has already begun for Willie Latham. The freshman running back says good-bye to his two boys and starts the long hour and a half trip from Corona to Glendale Community College.
Life has always been difficult for the young 20-year-old father of three. Born into wealth, in his young life Latham never knew the strains of financial stress. However, his life took a 180-degree turn when Latham’s father committed suicide. At 13 years old he was left to be the man of the house.
Entering his freshman season of high school, he became the star running back at Sturgis High in Mississippi. During this time, he dominated the offensive side of the ball, but not everyone appreciated how Latham handled his fame.
“I was a trash talker in high school,” said Latham. “I was good and I wanted to make sure that everybody knew about it. I use to get in fights because I didn’t how to keep my mouth shut.”
Even though he was a troublemaker outside the classroom, his performance in the classroom was a different story. Latham was an excellent student, graduating from Sturgis with a 3.4 G.P.A. Even though a standout running back, his stature kept the schools from knocking on his door, and he did not receive any good offers to play football. After he graduated, Latham and his family moved to South Central Los Angeles, where his father had grown up.
Latham was soon about to start a new life at GCC. Moving from the crime infested streets of South Central a year earlier to North Hollywood, he was hoping to find a safer neighborhood but did not find much luck there. He and his wife married and moved the family once again this time from North Hollywood to the quiet suburb of Corona.
Coach John Cicuto and offensive coordinator John Rome soon gave the young talented running back the opportunity to play football and the 5-foot-8 freshman hasn’t disappointed them.
“They gave me the opportunity to play and I will do my best not to let them down,” said Latham. “My dad taught me to work hard at anything that I do and success well eventually come.”
Since the start of spring semester, Latham has only missed one practice and has never been late, which he says is just a small example of his dedication to the program.
Latham comes in to this season with a much different attitude than any other season.
“I know what I have to do to accomplish my goals and be successful,” he said. “When I was young I didn’t appreciate the things guys such as NFL player Deion Sanders taught me, like playing hard and giving it all you have. I know what I have to do, the lord has shown me what I have to accomplish.”
Along with being a talented running back Latham is also a preacher at his local church where he devotes time to showing people what they need to do to make their life better.
But what drives the hard working running back more than anything else is people who want to see him fail. “All my life people have said that I was too small or not fast enough,” said Latham, “so everything I do is to prove them wrong and make my mom proud of me.”
Latham hopes to transfer to a major Division 1 school like Florida State University and get a degree in computer engineering.