LEESA JAMES is praying and expecting a win for her son’s San Francisco 49ers team today, when they tackle the defending champions, the Kansas City Chiefs at the 58th edition of American football’s Super Bowl at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, from 7.30 p.m. tonight (T&T time).
The 49ers defensive tackle, 26-year-old Javon Kinlaw does have Trinbagonian roots through his mom, but he is American by birth.
James, born in Delaford, Tobago before growing up in Malabar, immigrated to Washington DC in 1995, where she met George Kinlaw, a South Carolina native. She became pregnant with Jovan and subsequently transferred to South Carolina to live with Kinlaw (G), living there for two-and-a-half years before moving back to DC.
Kinlaw does have two brothers who are Trinis by birth: Shaquille James (currently living in Alexandra, Virginia with Leesa) and Joshua James who currently lives in Malabar with her brothers and nephews.
Tonight, they will be all cheering—from Trinidad and Virginia—when the game kicks off in front of a sold-out crowd. “I will be watching from home…and I know he is gonna just take it to another level,” said James (L).
What does she think of her son’s chances of lifting the coveted Vince Lombardi trophy?
“Of course we do (think he and the 49ers can win), of course I do, and I look forward to letting God’s will be done,” said James. “I believe this is their season because they have been there before. I believe God chose this season—he had a great season, a great year.”
James revealed that her son had overcome serious injuries and surgeries in earlier seasons. “A little bit of a hiccup “ was how she described a situation in which the six-foot-five inch, 319 lb NFL footballer experienced some very difficult physical and mental challenges in trying to get back into shape.
But this season has panned out well, and Kinlaw is raring to tackle his way to the title.
“Now ahead of the match, he feels good, he feels positive. He has the energy, he has the drive, he has the confidence that they (49ers) are going to do a great job,” said James.
The excitement and anticipation of a Super Bowl appearance probably was only matched by the sensational news of his signing from the University of South Carolina Gamecocks to the NFL with the 49ers back in 2020.
“I was really excited, both parents would be excited. While he was in college his last year, we already sensed he would get into the National Football League,” said James, “Me personally, because I am a praying mother—I am a Christian—we already knew he was going to go somewhere. We already knew.”
James added when the day came that the 49ers officials selected her son as the 14th pick in the first round of the NFL 2020 draft, she laid all praise to the man above.
I said, ‘Oh my gosh!’ All the prayers, all the sacrifices have paid off. And when you start to see things manifest through the goodness of God, we were like, “how good God is!” Thank you to God. I still feel the same way and I am humbled and so thankful to God for where he (Javon) is right now.”
It wasn’t always easy rushing for the big guy Javon.
While all her ons grew up doing some type of sport, mostly American football and basketball, Jovan did not focus on his academic prowess in his early days in high school in Washington DC, where he was already being noticed by coaches for his athletic prowess.
A personal trainer, James (L) described herself as also athletic and said her sons followed her pattern of physical activity but, “he (Javon) was always big; he had the size, he had the height. He was a big baby,” she joked.
But sensing he needed a more masculine touch in his upbringing, James (L) shipped him back to his dad in Charleston, South Carolina where he matriculated at Goose Creek High School.
“He was like most teenagers, being a boy. He was a good kid but he needed a little bit of structure and needed a little bit more guidance,“ Leesa said, explaining that her strong-willed son didn’t emphasise the academic side of the equation.
That’s until he, his father and Gamecocks’ coach Will Muschamp sat down and they devised a plan to get him into college.
“His grades weren’t up to standard…and the plan was to enroll for two years of Jones County Junior College in Mississippi, increase his academic performance so he could take up an athletic scholarship at the UoSC,” James said.
Javon took on the challenge so well, he upped his grades significantly and only needed one year of Junior College before Muschamp secured his entry to the Gamecocks.
The rest as they say…
Tonight, Javon, who had a chain made with a Trinidad and Tobago pendant, will test his mettle against the game’s best in Nevada. Then sometime in the future he will connect with his roots on his mother’s side of the family.
By the time of that meeting, Javon may have fulfilled in the Super Bowl, the promise he has shown in his professional career and matched, even surpassed the achievements of his earlier years.
At least that would be his mon’s deepest wish.