Dontae Strickland uses courage to fight adversity during journey to Syracuse University
"Coach [Scott] Schafer and those guys recruited me. They did a great job recruiting me," Syracuse running back Dontae Strickland said.
Strickland, a junior at Syracuse University, chose the Orange over rivaling offers from Rutgers, West Virginia, Georgia Tech and Indiana, among several others.
"They stuck with me through thick and thin -- I'd say -- and they opened a door for me that not a lot of schools have," he added.
Now, Strickland is a feature tailback at the Division-I level. However, life has not always been easy for him.
"Everybody goes through struggles in life," he explained.
But not everybody has dealt with Dontae's struggles. He spent a majority of his high school career living out a Best Western hotel in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey.
Imagine a one-bedroom hotel room housing an entire family.
He admits barely anybody knew of it until days before he committed to Syracuse.
"My family and I, we stuck together throughout, and a lot of people at my school and in my town did not know what was going on. So, it was kind of something where we kept quiet. They would see me in school and on the football field, accomplishing a lot of things, but not knowing what was really going on in my life. It was something that motivated me to get my family out -- the struggles and everything -- and now -- us not being on top, but us making our way and fighting through everything now."
When you're the starting running back at Syracuse University, there's a whole lot to live up to. Names like Jim Brown, Ernie Davis and Floyd Little, just to name a few. Perhaps the best backs to ever do it in college football. Dontae Strickland may not ever live up to those names, but once you hear his story, it'll be tough to not root for the guy.
"Just, you know, having the family talks," he continued, "basically everyday. Getting college letters and having my family stick by me through it all. Basically my parents saying wherever I decided to go to college, they'll be there and they'll be at every game. They've made basically every game since I've been here, either them or family friends.
"It's just amazing to have that support system."
And now that support system includes all of Central New York.