TAMPA — The other night, Hillsborough High football coach Earl Garcia had just jumped in the shower when the phone rang, It was Terence Doston, one of his players.
He had a problem. Typical Terence.
“He was locked in the field house parking lot,” Garcia said. “He had stayed behind to do some hitting. And now he couldn’t get out.”
Doston, a senior, will forever be fixed in minds at Hillsborough, that sweet child with the soft grin, a star at sports and studies, a two-sport Superman, three if you count track and field, where Doston long and triple jumps. Wednesday, on national signing day, Doston committed to play both football and baseball for West Virginia on scholarship.
“It means everything,” Doston said. “It’s taking the next big step in my life, it’s for everyone who watched me grow.”
Doston sat in the school media center Tuesday and said he had to go to the dentist that afternoon. He needed a filling. That’s right, the kid actually had a cavity. So he’s not perfect.
“But I’m hoping I can still make baseball practice,” Doston said.
The 5-foot-10, 160-pound Doston knows about the two-sport legends. He knows about Bo and Deion and Jameis Winston. One reason he liked West Virginia, one of many, was that his host on his recruiting trip was Mountaineers quarterback Trey Lowe, who also double dips at baseball. Doston knows that what he’s trying is not the easiest road for any athlete, given the inexorable pull of specialization for scholarships. Doston has fought it. He say he has no choice.
“I dream big all the time,” he said.
One of the dreams came true Wednesday.
And it mattered to a lot of people.
“If they were all like Terence, I’d coach until they throw dirt on me,” Garcia said.
“He’s not just a world-class athlete, he’s a world-class kid,” Hillsborough baseball coach Kenny White said.
Doston was a slot receiver in football, and though he was double- and triple-teamed at times, he still managed five receiving touchdowns to go with two TDs on kick returns, utilizing the same speed that once helped him run a 60-yard dash in a personal-best 6.48 seconds. In baseball last season, Doston hit .361, displaying an uncanny hand-eye coordination and, again, that speed.
“I’ve seen him beat out 10 groundballs to first base,” White said. “Routine groundballs. But they take a step back, play the hop and it’s over. He beats them to the bag. It’s almost comical to see that.”
“The guy at first will say, ‘Dang, you’re fast,’” Doston said.
But that’s not the whole story. Dang, he’s smart. Doston has a weighted GPA of 4.3. Doston walks down halls at Hillsborough and teachers, administrators and students smile at him. Terence is their guy.
“He’s an ambassador for the school, for high school sports, for kids everywhere,” Garcia said.
“I’m so proud of him,” said Hillsborough quarterback Charlie Dean, who had a big Wednesday himself, signing to play for Harvard — yes, Harvard. Dean thinks people connect with his friend and summer 7-on-7 teammate.
“Everybody looks up to Terence,” Dean said.
Signing days can be overblown, the dogs and ponies, the everything. But if you want to see it differently, sit next to a kid’s mother as he announces.
Wednesday, Doston’s mom sat in the Hillsborough auditorium, minding her 1-year-old, Jamie. Stephanie Harmon has five children. Terence is her second oldest son.
“She’s my light,” Terence said.
Doston’s father hasn’t been around, and his mother has worked two jobs, including her own cleaning business. There has been tough times.
“I never let them see me in the bedroom crying,” Harmon said. “I’d pray to God.”
Wednesday was a prayer answered.
“He has always brought me nothing but joy,” Harmon said.
Before he announced his decision, Doston stood on stage and spoke to his mother.
“My love for you will never change,” he said, wiping away tears. Mom cried back.
And signing day didn’t seem so overblown anymore.
Tuesday, Terence Doston thought about his Hillsborough football teammate Dontae Hopkins. Dontae had dreams, too, but he was not at signing day. He was arrested in December and faces third-degree murder charges in connection with a July shooting.
“Anything can happen,” Doston said. “I just always try to do my best.”
After the signings, there was cake in the back of the auditorium.
Coach Kenny White found me.
“You know, Terence still made practice yesterday, with his mouth all swollen,” White said with a grin.
“I think I can play both (sports) in college,” Doston said. “I know I’m going to try.”
Dream big, kid. We’ll lock the gate behind you.
Contact Martin Fennelly at email@example.com or (813) 731-8029. Follow @mjfennelly.