NFL player gives back to South Miami neighborhood
Pro football player Kennard Devane Cox, who grew up in South Miami, has a foundation created to help children.
By: Andreas Torres
Kennard Devane Cox is an NFL player who grew up in Liberty City and South Miami. His Outside The Huddle Foundation, he said, is designed to “help kids see challenges as possibilities, and not as obstacles.”
While he is negotiating a new contract with the Seattle Seahawks, he is focusing on the Huddle Express, his foundation’s literacy program. He has worked on a football camp for kids in South Miami before, and now wants to help them with academics.
“I never met my dad. And not having someone to guide you is tough. My friends were dying and ending up in prison for doing stupid stuff,” said Cox, 26. “God knows my life could have gone a different direction.”
After meeting with commissioners and board members of South Miami’s Community Redevelopment Agency earlier this month, Cox said he was ready to move into a small office space the agency is leasing to his foundation, so that he can start working to keep kids off the streets in June.
“The summer is a dangerous times for kids. This is when they have all this free time to get pregnant and get in trouble,” Cox said. “I want children to be able to start early, and learn to love education.”
At 6 feet tall and about 190 pounds, Cox’s long dreadlocks make him look younger. He doesn’t wear a lot of jewelry, and prefers to wear sneakers, shorts and T-shirts. He likes to do yoga and sing gospel hymns to start off his day. His priority, he said, is being a good father to his son Quanard, 12, who was born in South Miami, and lives in Atlanta, and his daughter Kanaria, 6, who lives in South Miami.
South Miami Commissioner Josh Liebman said he was impressed with Cox, and gave him an award May 9. Cox said Liebman’s gesture means a lot because his childhood was not easy.
“I had run-ins with the law and was arrested for minor offenses. Honestly, I should have been dead,” Cox said. My mom would tell us, ‘we are not broke, we are just short changed.’ But we struggled.”
His mom, Marilyn Cox, worked hard. Poverty surrounded him while growing up in Liberty City. He remembers the drug dealers and the shootings.
Life got better, he said, when he moved to South Miami to live with his aunt, who lived in a Habitat for Humanity house. His godfather Craig Martin also lived in the home. He was his first paternal figure. He was 13-years-old when he began to play football with South Miami Parks Department’s Grey Ghosts.
“I had been kicked out of school, and was forced to go to an alternative educational school. My Godfather told me, ‘you can do it if you want to do it’ and my life started to go in the right direction,” Cox said. “The community of South Miami helped me a lot.”
He worked at Taco Bell and at a store in Sunset Place. At 14, he got a girl pregnant, and he was terrified.
“I didn’t use my son as an excuse. I used him as a drive,” Cox said.
He continued with his education at Killian Senior High School, where he was a three-year starting quarterback, and attended day and night school to graduate.
“That school kept me out of trouble. Coach Billy Role was one of the biggest inspirations of my life. I was most valuable player …,” Cox said. “We had an 11-1 record, made it to a district championship and the state playoffs.”
After graduation, Cox earned a scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, where he played as a cornerback and earned a bachelor’s degree in mass communications.
“I was given the Ed Conway Award as one of the team’s most improved players,” Cox said.
But for a moment, Cox doubted his career. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2008 NFL draft.
Cox has played with the Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Seattle Seahawks. He said that just like any other NFL player from Miami, his dream is to play for the Dolphins. When his football career ends, he hopes to become “a teacher and a mentor” through his foundation.
“I want kids who are lost to know that all of the mistakes you make, you got to use them to push you up,” Cox said. “I had someone tell me to take advantage of the opportunities. Now is my turn to help other kids do the same.”