His is a story of overcoming adversity, and always wanting something better – and of hitting people hard.
J.R. LaRose shared “his testimony,” some of the inspirational pieces of his life, with a full house at the Cariboo Christian Life Fellowship (CCLF) in 108 Mile Ranch on March 7.
The Canadian Football League veteran’s story is one of the good ones, but it comes from a lot of bad.
A First Nations man who had basically nothing as a child growing up in Edmonton – his mother, a residential school survivor who passed away in 2011, was addicted to drugs, and he never knew his father – he found his passion, beat the odds and worked his way onto a CFL roster. He overcame multiple, career-sidelining injuries, and won the 99th Grey Cup as a starting safety with the B.C. Lions.
“I was faced with a whole lot of inconsistency right from the jump,” LaRose says of his life.
“But, I did not want to be a product of my environment. I always wanted better. I didn’t want my kids to grow up with the same issues I had to face.”
LaRose and his wife have two boys, age 10 and eight. It’s the off-season, but the 30-year-old has been going non-stop, travelling the country, visiting communities, meeting people and delivering motivational speeches. It’s something he’s been doing for the past five years.
He counts 12 days at home in the last two months, so it’s a sacrifice. But still, he loves it, he says. As a professional athlete, he’s in a position of influence, to give back, and he wants to make a difference.
He wants to create change.
“They need people to look up to,” he says of the children and youth he meets. “If they can look up to me and relate to my story, then I’m doing something.”
LaRose talks about God and making choices, the right ones and the wrong ones.
“The power of making a choice is huge. That’s what these kids need to understand.
“We all have decisions and choices we’re going to make. It’s either going to be the right choice, or the wrong choice.
“If you want to continue to make the wrong choice, you’ll never achieve your dream. By making the right choice, all dreams are possible.”
From what he’s overcome and accomplished, LaRose is proof of that.
“I busted my butt off in order to get to where I wanted to be.”
CCLF pastor Rick Barker was one of the close to 200 people in attendance. It was Barker who connected with LaRose on the social-networking site Twitter to ask him about taking his speaking tour to a small town in the British Columbia Interior, which is something he laughs a bit about.
“He was like, ‘Yea, man. No problem.’ It kind of went from there. I became one of those annoying Twitter fans, I guess.”
Throughout the hour-long talk, LaRose talked about broken bones, concussions and “always coming back after incredibly hard things,” Barker explains.
There were a lot of young people seated in the church pews.
It was a privilege and a pleasure to have LaRose speak, the pastor adds.
“The bottom line was to keep your head up, keep looking up. I think it made a difference.”
LaRose says he found something he was passionate about in football. Many people all over B.C. probably feel the same.
He adds when the Lions visit different parts of the province, like the 100 Mile House area with the Grey Cup in 2011, fans always show them love, which is something the players appreciate.
“It’s not the Vancouver Lions,” he points out. “It’s the B.C. Lions.”
LaRose says he wants to go where other people won’t.
“I’m sure there are people in small towns who would like to hear my story. If I can just reach one or two kids, we’re starting change.
“It’s a small change, but that’s what it’s all about for me – just giving back.”