Playing in a state championship game might seem daunting to many high school athletes.
It pales in comparison to what Alvin Stokes, Maplewood’s 18-year-old quarterback, already has faced — and overcome.
Both of Stokes’ parents are in prison. When he was in the fourth grade, his father was incarcerated, and six years later, when he was a high school sophomore, his mother was sentenced.
Each is behind bars on drug related charges — his mother in Nashville, his father in Lexington, Ky.
“That was difficult, and I went through some hard times,” the soft-spoken Stokes said. “But I have received so much encouragement from my teammates, the coaching staff, I can’t thank them enough.”
In return, he has helped lead the Panthers to the TSSAA Class 4A championship game. Maplewood (11-3) faces Greeneville (13-1), 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Cookeville.
He almost missed the season.
As a sophomore, Stokes moved in with his aunt, Crystal, who cared for him with the help of friends. Last June, in order to be with more of his family, he moved to Knoxville and lived with another aunt and his brother Bryan, a junior at Fulton High. He soon realized that he wouldn’t graduate with his classmates, teammates and friends at Maplewood, and would not play his senior year of football there.
He moved back to Nashville in August.
“Part of my family is my team,” he explained. “The coaches have all called to check on me, along with friends of the family, some of my schoolmates and school staff. They all helped me during this time.”
“People don’t have any idea of what Alvin’s gone through,” Maplewood coach Arcentae Broome said. “It is a testament to his courage and his strength to get through all of this while being a valuable member of our football team and a key to our success.
“We check on Alvin constantly, and if he is in need of something, we try to help him with it.”
After graduation, Stokes hopes to play football in college — and beyond. He cites UT-Chattanooga, Arkansas State and Memphis as possible destinations.
“I definitely want to play in college,” he said. “Long-range, I’d like to play in the NFL.
“Playing football has been so important, kind of an aside in all this. When I’m out there, especially as the quarterback, I’m in my own element, and it takes my mind off the other things.”
He is aware, though, that a career in the NFL is not guaranteed. As possible alternatives he is open to “perhaps real estate, something in construction or an electrical company. We’ll just see.”
For now, his focus is on Greeneville, which eliminated Maplewood in the semifinals on its way to the 2010 state championship.
“Determination, focus and teamwork,” Stokes said, when asked what it would take to win Saturday.
Those are three things he understands well.
“Alvin has gone through something no one should have to go through,” Maplewood running backs coach Kodi Phillips said. “He is an amazing story of someone who has persevered through the most trying of circumstances. He has grown and matured greatly through all this and has come so amazingly far.”