Positive thinking

KIRK PENTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:53 AM ET

Jerome Haywood has persevered, which is nothing new for the 29-year-old Los Angeles native.

It took the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defensive tackle only two games to instill enough confidence in the coaching staff and convince them that it didn't need to keep his main competition for the spot, Nate Davis, on the roster anymore.

The Bombers released Davis on Sunday.

"Tell him who knew you were going to be a starter before camp even began!" defensive tackle Doug Brown yelled from a few stalls away.

We're assuming the one who knew was Brown, whom Haywood has said he always wanted to line up beside. Now he will be doing it permanently.

"I don't feel any different," Haywood said of winning the job. "There's always somebody out there trying to find a job, and I'm not complacent at all.

"... I just want to win."

For Haywood, overcoming challenges is nothing new. He grew up in the poverty-stricken L.A. suburb of Inglewood, and he witnessed drug deals, shootings and gang activity as a young boy until his family moved to San Diego when he was eight.

"When you're coming up in that you don't see it as being bad," Haywood said. "It's not until you get older when you realize, 'Oh man, I guess I didn't have it as good as I thought I had it, because I could've been doing this or I could've been doing that.' "

Haywood has never met his biological father, but his mother, Angela Daugherty, married Frank Johnson when Haywood was three. Growing up, Johnson was the only dad Haywood knew.

Then, when Haywood was 16, life changed. Johnson was arrested and charged with murder after an altercation at a bar, and was sentenced to 25 years to life.

"He killed somebody in a bar fight," Haywood explained. "It was an accident. He meant to stab somebody, but he didn't mean to stab the guy that he stabbed.

"It was self-defence, so he just kind of got the short end of the stick. No money, no lawyer. That's just how it goes."

Haywood, who compared the incident to "having a family member die," hasn't spoken to Johnson since he was sent to prison. He has sent only three letters to him in the last 14 years.

"It's not anything personal," Haywood said. "It's just one of those things where I know he wants me to keep on truckin'. I talk to my grandmother, and she tells him how I'm doing. He still calls my mom whenever he gets a chance, so she tells him how I'm doing.

"... I was real close to him. He helped raise me. He's a big reason why I am who I am today, him and my mom. He taught me a lot of things about life and what I should do and what I shouldn't do; it was a do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do type thing."

Haywood shies away from talking about his past, not because he's embarrassed about it but because he doesn't think it's that big of a deal. He's seen a lot worse, so he isn't looking for sympathy.

"To me it wasn't that bad. To other people it probably was," said Haywood, who was named San Diego State's most inspirational player in three of his four seasons. "I didn't have everything I wanted, but it was good. I had everything I needed, if that makes any sense.

"And I'm still here. I got a degree (in criminal justice). I graduated college in four years. So I can't complain.

"... I just try to take the positive out of whatever the negative will be. I don't look at the negative."


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