When Javorius Allen heard about the blockbuster movie The Blind Side, he had one thought: It sounded a lot like his own life story.
That was a big moment for a kid who suffered through long stretches of poverty and homelessness as a kid, all while trying to avoid gangs and other elements that threatened to compromise his future.
As Ryan Mink explains on BaltimoreRavens.com, The Blind Side taught Allen that his story wasn't unique. This spring, he was drafted into the NFL by the Baltimore Ravens -- the same team that once featured Michael Oher, the protagonist of the book and movie.
Oher left the team after the 2013 season, but his story was well known to Ravens fans. Now Allen, a running back from USC, serves as a reminder of the pipeline to salvation that football can serve for athletes growing up amid poverty and trouble.
Growing up in a country town north of Tallahassee, Florida, Allen worked hard just to stay alive. He took his first job at 7, tending to pigs on a farm for $10 a day.
"A country town has a lot of sad stories," Allen told Mink. "A lot of people that were great –- better than me –- had potential to do big things. But they were just hanging around the wrong people."
The son of a mother who started having kids when she was 14, Allen was partially raised by her grandmother. Allen considers that decision to be the best one she ever made.
But even with grandma, life was hard. The front door leaked water and, occasionally, snakes. A hole in the bathroom reached all the way to the dirt below, and roaches could be heard running around when the power went out.
Allen's life changed when he was 12, and his oldest brother was convicted for attempted murder. That landed the future football player with the local Carrie Wilson Boys & Girls club, where he met the club's director, Mickey Cullen.
"You could tell he was a good kid right off the bat," Cullen told Mink. "He was well mannered, raised well by his grandma, very smart. I saw a lot of good qualities in him."
Allen shared with Cullen his desire to play football, and Cullen began driving him 40 minutes to practice. As Allen continued to play football, he spent more time at the Cullens' sprawling property, and when he entered high school, he and the Cullens decided he would become a permanent member of the family.
Allen wound up losing his grandma, Alice, while he was playing football at USC. He scrawled her name on tape placed over his wrists and kissed the tape after every touchdown.
Then, after rushing for 2,274 yards for the Trojans, Allen became the 125th pick of the 2015 NFL draft. He's also bringing to the NFL a college degree, becoming the first person in his family to earn such an achievement.
"Obviously we were proud of him being drafted and his football stuff, but graduating from college was a bigger deal than the NFL," Cullen says. "He was a really good kid. He was a good young man. Now he's growing up into being a good man."