June 3, 2012
They made it to a hotel downtown, but when waters kept rising, they abandoned everything.
They walked through fetid water, past dead bodies, to a truck that took them to Baton Rouge, La., where they called relatives in Carson.
“They arrived with only the clothes that they were wearing,” said Allyson Manumaleuna, McRoyal’s cousin in Carson and a social worker who became like a second mother.
His sisters and mother later returned home, but McRoyal stayed to play football at Carson High, far away from the grim future his family feared awaited a young black man on the violent streets of post-Katrina New Orleans.
A kid known to be hilarious and loud, as well as angry and quick to fight, McRoyal was obsessed with football and desperately dreamed of a pro career in a sport that, at 5-feet-9 and 185 pounds, he seemed too small for.
“He always told my mom, ‘I’m gonna get you out the ‘hood,'” said his sister Keahsha McRoyal. “He was going to make it to the NFL, and we was all gonna be straight and never have to worry. There was no doubt about that. We just knew.”
Nurtured by an extended Samoan family filled with athletes, Ken McRoyal earned a walk-on spot on the University of Idaho football team and was named a starting receiver for the upcoming season with a full scholarship.
His friends say the anger that had defined the kid who waded out of Katrina floodwaters was starting to fade.
On May 11, he returned to Carson for the summer. Two days later, McRoyal, 22, was gunned down in East Los Angeles. Police don’t know who did it — or why.
Just as “he was growing up,” Manumaleuna said, he was cut down.
To Ken McRoyal, Carson was another world.
His aunt, Rhonda Austin, had married into the Manumaleunas, a large, extended family well known in Carson’s vast Samoan community. An uncle, the late John Manumaleuna, was a beloved community leader who ran football camps for at-risk kids. Another uncle, Frank, a former professional football player, now runs the camps.
McRoyal became especially close to his cousin, Brandon, who played 10 years as an NFL tight end. “Brandon was really more like his brother, and even his father,” said Pasadena City College track coach Larry Wade, who helped train the two, along with other pro athletes.
As a wide receiver, McRoyal wore 86, Brandon’s number. The relationship cemented his belief that his future lay in the NFL.
“It was real for him, not just on TV,” said Austin.
At Carson High, recruiters for Division 1 football programs scouted McRoyal, but his grades were dismal.
He was undisciplined and unfocused, and he carried a chip on his shoulder, sharpened by having had an absentee father and a childhood spent in poverty.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
255 4396713 45
his path of destiny = 45 = Things went horribly wrong.
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