HOOVER, Ala. — There are moments in a person’s life that stand out; they are forever etched in the mind of the person who went through the experience. It can be something as small as a big hit in little league or that school project you worked really hard on to get an A.
As we get older those moments become bigger: prom, high school graduation, the day you move away from home and attend college, college graduation and even your wedding day.
While all those moments deserve their own place in your memory bank, there is one moment that trumps all, the birth of your first child.
For Dominique Easley, having his son was a moment that he not only will never forget, but it was the day that life and football came into perspective.
“When you have a child, your view of the world changes,” Easley said on Tuesday at SEC media days. “Everything you do isn’t for yourself anymore.”
This is a statement that Gator fans would have never expected to come from Dominique Easley’s mouth just four short years ago. Easley showed up to Gainesville a 5-star defensive tackle and an Under Armour All-American. He was selfish, confident – borderline cocky – and expected to come right into college and be an impact player on a team that was just one year removed from a national championship. When things didn’t turn out that way, there were reports that Easley was thinking about transferring and that he and Ronald Powell even skipped practices.
Easley’s entire recruiting class came in with so much hype, and possibly even a sense of entitlement, that senior offensive lineman Mike Pouncey called the freshmen out publicly in the media.
“At the end of the day the freshmen just need to shut their mouths and just come play,” Pouncey said of Easley’s recruiting class. “They haven’t done nothing on Saturday and most of the fans don’t even now who they are. Until they prove themselves they just need to sit back and let the older guys play.”
Easley was young, brash and immature. Those are characteristics that don’t exactly mesh well with fatherhood and it’s something that took a while for Easley to grow out of.
“I grew up to where I had to grow up,” Easley said. “But I will always be a funny, outgoing person. Life is too short to be serious all the time.”
That maturation process kicked into high gear last November when he welcomed Dominique Earl Easley II into the world. Over night, Easley’s Instagram page went from hosting pictures of the typical Instagram selfies, his dog, shoes and food, to a picture of his new pride and joy, his reason to get out of bed every morning.
“I always know that every time I wake up, every time I step in the weight room, every time I step on the field, it’s not for me anymore,” Easley said. “It’s for him, it’s for joy in his life, not for mine.”
That’s a far cry from the kid who skipped practice because things weren’t going his way. But that is what having a child will do to you. Credit the young man for stepping up, taking on the responsibility of not only playing a key role for the Florida Gators, but for being a part of his son’s life and making the changes to be the best father to “Deuce” – his son’s nickname – as possible.
“It’s to give the one that you made a better life than what you had,” Easley said of his son. “You want to give the one that you made the life that he could have but better, it’s more of you’re living your life to make his better.”
So as Easley walked out of the Wynfrey Hotel on Tuesday afternoon in his khaki pants, blue blazer and lavender tie, there was one thing that was abundantly clear.
He’s not that selfish 18-year old kid anymore.