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A Struggle for Sweet Success (Verna Nesmith)

December 6, 2009

bc  graduates  winter commencement verna nesmith n parentsCourtesy of BC Sports Information
By Derrick Johnson

In some people the strife of trials and tribulations can bring the downfall and awkward turn to one's life; however in many it awakens the foundation of which their inner strength is built upon.

Verna Nesmith began his quest at Benedict College in the fall of 2005.  Originally recruited by former head football coach John Hendrick, he began his college career as a partial qualifier student-athlete. Nesmith graduated from C.E. Murray High School in Salters, SC, where he starred as a running back, wide receiver, and defensive back on his high school football team.

Throughout his football career at Benedict College, he has been faced with circumstances and situations that not only tested his faith, but also his destined path in life. Nesmith, a native of Salters, South Carolina is the fifth of six children to Verna Sr. and Lillie Nesmith. Verna Sr., the owner of a family construction business worked hard to instill good work habits within his children. Nesmith (Verna Jr.) recalls working with his father from the age of 12 to the present day.

"I believe the work I did with my father taught me hard work values, leadership, and commitment," he said. "But most of all, it taught me humility and how to be mentally strong."

Over the next couple of years Nesmith would unconsciously reach back to use the skills and attributes working with his father had taught him. During his sophomore year he received a phone call from his older brother informing him that his father had recently been diagnosed with cancer (Hodgkin's Lymphoma Disease).

"This was the scariest phone call I have ever received. I didn't know much about cancer nor did I know to what degree or stage my father's diagnosis was," said Nesmith.   "Deep inside, I really felt that my family knew long before I was told anything."

Shortly after Nesmith got the news about his father it became sorely hard for him to focus on his daily responsibility of being a student-athlete at Benedict College.  Nesmith who regularly fluctuated between a 3.0 to 2.7 grade point average began slipping in the classroom. He also began regular weekend visits with his father while he was being cared for at the Medical University of South Carolina, in Charleston, in addition to traveling back to Salters, SC to check in on his mother. During this time Nesmith's father underwent chemotherapy several times however the treatments would not prevail. The chemotherapy treatments for his father would extend into Verna's junior year of college. It was during this time that the Nesmith family learned that Verna Sr. would need a bone marrow transplant.

"This really marked the worst time for me in college when my father was going through the transplant procedures. I didn't know whether or not I was going to lose my father or not," Nesmith said. "I constantly imagined losing him and my grades continued to drop. I think I even dropped below a 1.8 grade point average. I seriously began thinking of dropping out of college."

It was during this time that Nesmith began digging deeper into his spirituality and his foundation of mental toughness, for his tribulations would not end with his father. Several months later Nesmith decided to give his mother one of his regular check-in calls and after 5 minutes the call was abruptly disconnected. Several minutes later Nesmith would get another disturbing phone call from his brother telling him that their home was engulfed in flames.  Their home and all of its contents were completely destroyed because of a faulty dryer. This was the Nesmith's second home loss due to fire and this time in addition to the stress felt by the family due to their leader being stricken with cancer.

"This is really when the pressure set-in. I began stressing more and more and the traveling back and forth continued," said Nesmith. "My commitment to football and school weakened, however, I can truly say my commitment to my faith and in God strengthened."

Nesmith began praying more and more each day and relied on his faith in God. He believes as a direct result the community in Salters, SC raised over $50,000.00 for his family. The Benedict College Football team held car washes to help raise funds for his family as well.

Head Coach Stan Conner, said, "Nobody is exempt from problems in their life. Nesmith's situation was different because his problems were going to last for a while." Conner said, "I thought he handled his father's situation pretty good. But when he came back the next year during the spring his house burned down. I truly believed that we were going to lose him to family support, however Verna stuck with us."

As a result of Verna's strong foundation, and strengthened faith in God and spirituality, on December 12, 2009 at 9:00 a.m. he became the second member of his family to graduate from college. Verna received a Bachelor of Science degree with a concentration in Business Management. He also repaired his grade point average to a recovering 2.8 cumulative GPA.

When asked about his past trials and tribulations; slightly smirking he replied, "All my tribulations of the path have benefited me spiritually. I know I am much stronger spiritually but much more importantly, my relationship with God has grown tremendously." He said, "My advice to others would be to never give up, stay focused, and rely on your faith. God will never give you more than you can bare.

Source: BC Sports Information

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