By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (August 14, 2016) — Tarleton State football players and coaches all seem to say they are thankful and blessed to be back in Stephenville, on campus and in preseason camp preparing for the 2016 season.
One of them, junior offensive lineman Doudley Ajour, is also thankful just to be in America.
A native of the Republic of Haiti, Ajour is the lone foreign-born player on the Tarleton football roster. Haiti borders the Dominican Republic and makes up the western third of the Island of Hispaniola in the Carribean. It was home to Ajour until he moved with his mother to Florida as a teenager.
Ajour says he left Florida for Maryland to live with his father, who had come to America before Ajour was born, because his father was in a better economic situation. It was in Sandy Shores, Maryland where the 6-7, 330-pound giant began to play football, but not until his junior year.
“It was too hard my first two years of high school because I was still learning English,” said Ajour, who now speaks the language clearly in a thick voice without too much of an accent. “Once I learned the language, then my last two years of high school I played.”
He didn’t just play, but excelled, thanks in large part to his size and footwork that was developed playing soccer and basketball as a child.
Ajour was in discussions with Auburn, Texas Tech and others before learning he wouldn’t be going the Division I route and ending up at Independence College, a junior college in Independence, Kansas. Two years later, Tarleton offensive line coach Bryson Oliver sold the giant lineman on bringing his skills to Tarleton.
Ajour visited the Stephenville campus less than a month ago, and by the time he left was committed to joining Oliver and the Texans.
“Coach Oliver hit me up and I really like the guy he is,” said Ajour. “He welcomed me to Stephenville and I like what’s going on with the new coaches. I believe they know how to win, and I want to be a part of their team.”
Ajour doesn’t just see sports as an opportunity, but believes giving his all to help his team and to better himself is a duty.
“I can’t disrespect the game and I can’t disrespect the opportunities the game has given me. If I disrespect the game, I feel like I would be disrespecting my mother, because she’s a big part of my life and the reason I was ever able to come to America and find football,” he said. “She’s who I’m doing this for, to honor the talent and the opportunities that she gave me and that God gave me.”
Simple things most Americans take for granted just mean more to Ajour after spending his youth in Haiti, labeled by CNN as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
“The biggest difference is what I have now that I didn’t have then,” he said. “I am so thankful for what I have here because I never had much of anything in Haiti, and I wouldn’t have been able to go to college or play football, any of this. I’m just thankful for all of it. This is life changing right here, I never would have dreamed of doing this when I was in Haiti.”
He has the opportunity to start at left tackle for the Texans. That’s where he lined up with the first team offense during the first practice Saturday, and that’s the position charged with protecting the blind side of Tarleton quarterbacks.
“It’s an honor just to know they trust me to protect the blind side, that means a lot,” Ajour said. “I’m here to help the team and make it better and to get an education while I’m doing it.”
He’s not only appreciative of his American opportunities, but also confident in his ability as he makes the most of them.
“My biggest strength I believe is my mind because I know I can do anything,” he said. “Just like in sports, if I see something done then try it myself, I know I can do it because that’s what I am, I’m an athlete.”
A big one, at a crucial position. With a special opportunity most in his family have never dreamed of. To the best of Ajour’s knowledge, a second cousin is the only member of his family to graduate from college.
“That’s something very special and a opportunity I know I have to respect because I want to do it for me and for my mother,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to do that in Haiti.”
But he can in America. In Stephenville. At Tarleton.
Where the Texans have been blessed with a behemoth new left tackle with quick feet and a deep admiration for the game.
“Growing up in Haiti, there is no football,” he said. “It’s a great game, I love everything about it.”