No matter how much angst we see in the world around us, no matter how many we hear and see who have naught but hate in their hearts, I never have a problem finding good people to write about for this weekly feature. It always boosts my spirits to write about people who put their humanitarian values ahead of greed and self, and I hope it boosts yours to read about them. I found a gem today … a man who … well, read on …
The place is Harding University High School in Charlotte, North Carolina. The story begins back in August, 2015 when Harding High hired a new football coach, Sam Greiner, to try to revive their struggling team, one of the least successful in the area. Coach Greiner was given a list of several players on his team whose poor grades had put them on the “ineligible to play” list. One of those students was a young sophomore named Braheam Murphy.
Braheam had lived a tough life. His mother had died of a brain aneurism when he was just five years old, and his father later remarried, but when he and his new wife had a daughter with cerebral palsy, there was no longer any place in the household for Braheam and his older sister, Dominique. Braheam and Dominique began staying wherever they would be welcomed for a night or two, usually on the couches of friends. In essence, they were homeless and somehow fell through the cracks in the child welfare system.
When Coach Greiner told Ibraheam that he would not be able to play that year, Ibraheam cried and said, “Coach, football is all I’ve got”. Ibraheam remained on the team, but unable to play. Coach Greiner saw something special in Braheam and began giving him rides after school, sometimes to his job at a local convenience store, other times to one house or another, never the same house two times in a row. He finally asked Braheam exactly where he lived, and the answer was, “I stay wherever my sister goes.”
The more Coach Greiner learned about Murphy’s circumstances, the more it disturbed him and one day he decided enough was enough, and in March of 2016, after consulting with his wife, Connie, as well as the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Greiner asked Ibraheam to move in with him and his family. By the end of 2016, Ibraheam’s grade point average (GPA) had risen from 1.8 to 3.7 and his eligibility to play football had been reinstated.
Then came May 2017, when Braheam received a scholarship to attend US Military Academy at West Point next year. Quite a leap from the homeless kid with failing grades.
Sam and Connie Greiner didn’t just provide food, clothing and shelter for young Braheam, but they gave him something even more important: a sense of belonging, a sense of family. In speaking of the Greiner’s two small children, Charli and Journi, “They love him. That’s their brother. They don’t look at anything else — that’s their brother,” Connie Greiner said.
Murphy gets emotional when he speaks of the Greiners: “They’re my family. And I can’t imagine where I would be without their support.”
Remember how I said that in 2015, the Harding High football team was among the worst in the area? In 2015, they had won only one game, lost 10. Just as Braheam’s GPA came from a limping 1.8 to near-perfect 3.7, just this week, the Harding High football team came from 1-10 in 2015 to 11-1 in 2017, and won the state championship! And you know who earned the winning run? You got it … none other than quarterback Braheam Murphy, sprinting 95 yards for a touchdown in the final minutes!
What Coach Sam Greiner gave to Braheam Murphy goes beyond a home, even beyond a family, for it may well be that Coach Greiner game Braheam a chance at life that he might never have otherwise had. And what is really impressive is that Greiner says it wasn’t he and his wife who gave to Braheam, but that Braheam was the one who gave them so much more. I suspect both are true, and my hat is off to Coach Sam Greiner and his wife Connie, for being willing to take a chance on one homeless young man and give him the leg up he needed to go on for life, for greatness.