All some students know is the border that separates Oswego & Montgomery, living their entire lives within a 5-mile radius.
But for East graduate Antwaine Macklin, his life began in the tough streets of Chicago.
His second life found him transported to the quiet suburb of Oswego.
Where he’ll go next?
It’s anyone’s guess …
Senior Antwaine Macklin (20) warms up on the field prior to one of East’s regular season games. “In the city, you can walk to this place and that place fast. Out here you got to drive and everything, and it’s just boring, to be honest. If I could pick the city I probably would,” Antwaine said. Photo courtesy of Colleen Olson.
by Ben Schmidt, SPORTS EDITOR
30 May 2019
As he stands at the end of the F wing hallway, the East senior Antwaine Macklin begins to recall moments from his previous life of living in Chicago. With every answer he gives, a bright, wide smile breaks his dark face. He frequently readjusts the long brown dreadlocks running down the back of his head, now reaching as far as his backside.
He’s come a long way. He’s finishing his second year at East on top.
It wasn’t always this great. His smile wasn’t always so bright.
When he begins to tell his story he makes sure to mention how with the ending of most school weeks, it would involve leaving school and making his way back into the city of Chicago. A familiar site, he grew up there until making the move out to Oswego early last school year.
Once Antwaine gets to the city, he meets up with friends that he has known for years and went to school with them. These friends are the same ones he’d spend hours upon hours with outside every day, just running around and as he calls it “just boys being boys”. The school they attended came nowhere near the size of East, and there were roughly 600 kids in attendance. Along with that, they barely did athletics and the education level was lower than at East.
Despite those deficiencies with the school and location, it didn’t stop Antwaine from wanting to stay there. When his family first decided that they were going to move to Oswego near a close friend, he decided that he did not want to leave and go to a completely new style of suburban living. Living in Chicago was something he had grown to love, and he figured that Oswego would be boring, which he still believes to this day. It wasn’t until East Football Coach Tyson LeBlanc went to his house and talked to him that he was convinced to make the move.
While slowly swaying back and forth in the hallway Antwaine continues on about how he came to meet LeBlanc. LeBlanc, who also teaches physical education at East, had heard from another staff member about him when he had moved in. The coach went to see Antwaine and eventually got him to come see a practice, which would become a big piece in the decision to actually move out here and go to school. For the beginning of his time here though, he was not too happy with his new home. Antwaine would still go back to Chicago every weekend, even more frequently than he still does now.
Even with his disliking for the new environment initially, football stayed a big part in his sticking around. When he was younger, he played more on the line of scrimmage due to his size, as lineman are typically of a bigger build. Around freshman year though, he made a very big change. He spent a lot of time in the weight room which improved his athleticism and helped him become one of the team’s defensive backs.
According to Antwaine’s mother Charlene Pearson, that same time around 14 years old is when he really started coming out of his shell. In her eyes that was the first time he really started focusing on football. Pearson has had the challenge of being a single mom and raising three kids in the city, but she loves how much Oswego has welcomed her and her family.
The years prior to that coming out of that shell for Antwaine though had some rough encounters early on, as Macklin was born a month and a half early. Weighing just four pounds and six ounces at birth, his lungs weren’t fully developed and he was hospitalized quite a bit.
“There were times doctors said he may not make it, that he was going to have a disability and other complications. Antwaine did a few things like talk and walk a little later than most, but knowing who he has grown to never reveal how his life began. He is still a little quiet sometimes and he’s very genuine, kind, and respectful to everyone,” Charlene says.
Football is not the only thing though that has had an impact since the move here though, as academics have also played a role. Although certain classes like English were a struggle at first, it became something he learned to enjoy, largely due to English teacher Justin Howard Query.
“At first I wasn’t really feeling the class because I was failing, but then after that I had a talk with Mr. Query and we just talked about the city compared to here and then I just found out how good of a teacher he is and that he really cares about you, so I liked his class,” Antwaine says with just a slight smile remembering the times he had in the class.
Antwaine says that the biggest reason for his failing at first was the uptick in the workload at his new school. At his previous school in the city, he says the work was really easy for him to complete. When he got here though, it took some time for him to realize that more was to be expected at East. It wasn’t until a change was made by talking to Query that he started to really see an improvement academically.
“He told us to write an essay and I wrote a three-page essay and thought it was good. He told me that this is not an essay. He was looking for like 10 pages. After that though we talked, and I was like, he’s no different than me. He told me when he grew up he was a bad kid too,” Antwaine says, chuckling at the thought of his previous teacher ever coming close to being a “bad kid.”
Macklin also does poetry and participates in The Spoken Word Poetry Club at the school. Writing poetry has been something he has done since he was younger, but never really participated in until he moved here. He really enjoys poetry now and it stems from some of his experiences back in Chicago. With Oswego being a place that he calls “boring”, compared to the city, he writes about some of the stuff he saw and did during his younger years while still living back in the city, all while keeping a more upbeat look on everything.
“He’s very positive. He is resilient, and I think he’s experienced some things that most of us have never come close to encountering in our lives, and he still smiles every day. I think he handles things very well,” English teacher & Spoken Word Club Sponsor Erin Sudberry says.
Sudberry also has previous experience in the Chicago area. She used to teach in Chicago years ago and says she knows some of the things he’s seen while growing up there. She realizes how tough it is to go through everything he’s gone through and still act the way he does.
“I really appreciate his honesty and openness because he’s pretty willing to talk about his experiences and he still seems to maintain a very positive perspective, which I think really speaks to his character,” Sudberry says.
The writing really started though back in elementary school when he was visited by a poet who used to come in and teach him and his classmates. This poet looked at his work about the things he was seeing while living downtown and told him how he liked his writing. This lead him to continue writing up until this point today, and it has become a part of his academic side. He knows that academics are important for him do be able to do certain things in the future, so he is taking it seriously now.
“I really think that education is important to him. He’s a kid that came in here with a plan, and he’s been able to execute that plan and get an opportunity to go to a great school in Aurora University,” LeBlanc says.
Even with a big move and a new school and coming from city life, Macklin still lives what he thinks is pretty good circumstances, although they may be unlike some other kids that live in Oswego. He lives with his mom, brother, and grandparents, while his dad still lives in the city. One important thing though is that he does have is good relationships with both of his parents, which he enjoys, and he gets to really see all of the hard work his mother does to help him succeed.
“A person that really inspires me is my mom because my dad wasn’t financially stable like my mom, so she did a lot of stuff with us by herself and paid bills,” Antwaine says with a smile, clearly thankful for everything his mom has done for him. “I watched her struggle in the house trying to pay bills and keep us in school and everything, but she’s a hardworking lady and to have three kids and she’s paying for them by herself basically.”
In looking towards the future, Macklin has been recently been talking to schools about playing football and financial packages to do so. The top one currently is Aurora University, where he would go to play football and then likely move to linebacker. Since chances of all athletes making it to the NFL are so low though, he is also looking at other opportunities for after college that he could take on. His mom feels he can accomplish whatever he wants to, but some of the things, in particular, are a medical sports field or something in business. LeBlanc, also a graduate from Aurora University, potentially sees an opportunity for someone he’s grown to know so much return to the school in the future.
“He’s a guy that I hope down the line is willing to come back and share his story with some of our future players. If he goes a direction where he’d want to get into coaching I’d love to have him come back to our school,” LeBlanc says, with a just a slight sense of optimism shown emotionally.
Even with Antwaine going off to college and leaving town in just a few months, the rest of his family is really enjoying their new place. Despite Oswego still not feeling like home to Antwaine specifically due to its inability to have everything close by, in his mom’s eyes it’s been a much more positive experience due to their new surroundings.
“Oswego is a whole different world, especially for my children. Kids can actually be kids. They can play outside, and do things as simple as riding a bike without someone at their side all the time. Most importantly, there’s no violence. Our neighbors, teachers, coaches, teammates, and classmates have been so helpful with our transition,” Charlene says with plenty of enthusiasm and happiness about it all.
No matter what happens though, Antwaine Macklin in under two years went from one type of living in the city to another in the suburbs. He is an athlete who also participates in poetry, and most importantly has another important decision to make when it comes to what to do in the upcoming years. Just like before though, it will be another big life change for him to experience.
“I’m excited about learning how to live alone and have a opportunity to play football in college and excited that I’m like the first male in the family to go to college,” Antwaine says.
Ben Schmidt is the Sports Editor for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl.