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Bucs’ Shaquil Barrett: I can give my kids better opportunities

The outside linebacker's future hinged mostly on football growing up in inner-city Baltimore. He wants endless options for his children.

This Father’s Day, we reached out to a number of our sports landscape’s most prominent African-American dads to talk about the ongoing quest for racial equality. Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Tampa Bay Bucs outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, the NFL’s reigning sack king, became a father at the age of 19. Barrett and his wife, Jordanna, have three children: 8-year-old Shaquil Jr., 7-year-old Braylon and 5-year-old Aaliyah.

Because his children are young, Barrett said they have yet to be exposed to the harsh reality of racial inequality, but he is prepared to have such talks with them as they get older if current circumstances around the United States do not improve.

“Fatherhood to me in general is being there for your kids whenever they need you, showing them the way, seeing them learn, seeing them grow, and just giving them everything that I never had and what I did have.

Tampa Bay Buccaneer Shaquil Barrett with wife Jordanna and children Aaliyah, 5, Shaquil Jr., 8, and Braylon, 7. [Courtesy of Shaquil Barrett]

“So we talked to them and let them know what was going on in the world and how black people were treated and are being treated. We just told them about that because they’re not ever really on their own yet.

“That’s tough (knowing the world might not be fair to them.) That’s why I just do my best as a parent and a father to give them the best opportunities they can possibly have because usually growing up there wasn’t much opportunity for inner-city black kids. It was playing sports or — basically just playing sports or trying to become a rapper or something.

“I just want to give my kids the opportunity to have a great education to be able to pursue whatever their dreams are and just opening their opportunities and trying to change the generation. My parents, they did a good job, but they couldn’t give us the opportunities we could have had, but that stems from the way they came up, living in the projects because it’s the only thing they could afford.

Related: Shaquil Barrett’s unique path to the NFL, the Bucs and the quarterback

“I really didn’t have too many run-ins with the police (growing up in Baltimore). My parents raised me right, and I know you can still do the right thing and still get in trouble. One time, we got stopped, me, my brother and my cousin, because they said we fit the description of someone who did something. Back in the day, we thought it was a story to tell. We didn’t think too much of it because everything wasn’t bad like it is (now).”