Onward and Upward

Hawks star Singleton lifts family while excelling despite tough times

by C. Jemal Horton

West Meck football star Tashion Singleton (second from right) hugs his mother, Danielle McBryde (right) and sister Quamarai McBryde (second from left) while being flanked by his close friend Kenneth Webster, who lives with the family. (C. Jemal Horton/MIM photo)

Every so often, when a situation begins to look bleak or the moment becomes a little too tense, Tashion Singleton has this phrase he utters.
“No excuses.”
In many ways, it’s more of a mantra for the West Mecklenburg High School senior, because for years it’s helped him focus more on the plethora of trying situations he’s had to endure at such a young age.
When he couldn’t play Pop Warner football because the registration fee was more money than his family could afford? No excuses.
When he had to get a job at 12 years old to help provide for his mother and young sister? No excuses.
Even on the nightmare of a day he had a gun pointed in his face – as a 10-year-old – it was only a matter of weeks before those familiar words began ringing in his ears.
No excuses.
Through it all, he’s become an honor-roll student who also has a number of colleges interested in him as a football player. Those around him say if there’s a bright side to be seen in anything, Singleton can find it.
So it’s not a surprise to anyone associated with the West Meck football team that Singleton, a linebacker, has been able to handle the Hawks’ difficult on-the-field times in recent years with an uncommon grace.
“Tashion’s been through some tough times in his life, and he’s very mature for his age,” West Meck coach Jeff Caldwell said. “He’s like the older brother to everybody on the team. They always go to Tay when something is going on and get his opinion about it.
“He’s a caregiver. He loves his teammates. Everybody he comes in contact with, he’s going to show you love. That’s just what kind of kid he is. He’s hungry. He deals with his difficulties in stride.”
The difficulties, though, came early.
Growing up in his Philadelphia neighborhood, Singleton showed schoolyard athletic ability. But he never was able to play organized sports until later moving to Charlotte and finally taking the football field at Wilson Middle School as an eighth-grader. Coaches put him at tight end and defensive end. He was big, he was tough, he was good. They wondered why he hadn’t taken up the sport earlier.
“Because of my circumstances at home, I wasn’t able to get involved in things like (Police Activities League) sports, because it involved money and things of that nature,” Singleton said. “But I knew I had to make lemonade out of lemons, so I didn’t complain about what was happening at (my house); I had to stay focused. I’ve always had the mind-set that if I want to be somebody in life, I’m not going to make excuses based on what’s happening at my house. I’ve got to make things happen.
“I always wanted to play football, but I couldn’t for a while. But then God gave me an opportunity, so I took advantage of it.”
The year before he began playing football at Wilson Middle, 12-year-old Singleton got a job selling peanut brittle around the city with a youth organization designed to help keep teens off the street. It didn’t pay much, but he proudly took his earnings home to his mother, Danielle McBryde, to contribute to things such as buying groceries or paying the utility bill.
“He just told me, ‘Mom, I’m going to help you,’” McBryde recalled while choking back tears. “But that’s Tay. He became the man of the house at a young age, and he’s been doing it ever since. It says a lot about someone that age who takes on that responsibility.”
All the while, Singleton was tearing up the opposition on the gridiron. He was a standout at Wilson before moving on to West Meck. When Singleton reached campus, coaches knew he was talented and believed he had the potential to play in college one day.
Singleton has always enjoyed football. But shortly after enrolling at West Meck, he really began to take the sport seriously. He saw it as a gateway to a better life – and not just for himself.
He became an all-conference performer for the Hawks. He began making appearances on the honor roll after some early academic struggles. There are two reasons, Singleton said, that he works so hard on and off the field now.
“My mom and my little sister,” he said firmly. “I became the man of the house when I was 12, and I have to stay focused. I have to. If I don’t do it, who else is going to do it? That’s how I look at it. I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure my family is good. I won’t use any excuses not to.”
He proved that years before he ever started selling peanut brittle, long before moving to the Queen City.
Fighting back tears, Singleton detailed the day in Philadelphia that he said changed his life forever.
“There was a brawl in front of my house,” he said softly. “My mom was getting jumped by, like, eight grown men. I was 7 years old. I tried to go outside and help her. I was throwing things at them. And then, one of the guys pointed a gun in my face and said, ‘Go back in the house.’ My little sister was on the potty, and I grabbed her and ran upstairs. I called my grandmother, but while I was on the phone I was throwing things out the window trying to help my mother.”
He takes a deep breath.
“It was devastating to see that,” he said.
“But that’s actually what drives me. There are people out there who are going to be like that, but I can’t do anything about that. I only can control my actions. That was a sad day in my life, and I’m never going to forget it. That’s always going to keep driving me. My mother took a beating like that, and she’s still strong.”
He stands quietly and then lifts his head.
“If she can do that, then I don’t have any excuses not to keep going myself,” he gives. “Things aren’t perfect, but things are going well in my life right now. If I keep working, they’re going to get even better.”
Singleton is the Hawks’ leading tackler this season. A number of colleges have attended his games, and many others have requested to see his highlight footage. Coastal Carolina, the Charlotte 49ers, N.C. Central, N.C. A&T and Furman are among the suitors so far.
It’s looking more and more as if college is within his grasp.
“If I go to college … no, I’m not going to say that,” Singleton began. “When I go to college, I’ll be the first in my family to do it. That’s what I plan on doing. I’m not going to make any excuses for not going. I’m going to do everything I can to make that happen.”
Right now, he said, he has all A’s in his classes – thanks to the fact that he got a 100 on an honors pre-calculus test that nudged his average to a 93.
But he isn’t the only person in his home doing well academically. His mother went back to school last year to finish earning her high school diploma.
“I’ll graduate in December,” she said proudly, “one day before Tay’s birthday. That means so much to me”
Singleton’s sister, Quamarai McBryde, also is doing well in school. And as a 5-foot-9 12-year-old, she’s also showing the potential to excel in basketball.
And then there’s Singleton’s “brother,” who in reality is his good friend, Kenneth Webster. Singleton asked his mother if Webster could come live with them, and she agreed. It was another way for Singleton to help someone, even though his own family still faces challenges – financial and otherwise – each day.
“Kenneth was dealing with some things at (his) home, too, but we just have the same goals,” Singleton said. “He’s just a close friend, but blood couldn’t make us any closer. We just want to be successful. We’re tired of the situations we’re in. And we’re willing to do what it takes to get out of them.”
He laughs because he just can’t resist uttering the next words.
“No excuses,” he said.

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