Sometimes when Virginia senior free safety Anthony Poindexter is sitting in class or lifting weights or preparing for practice, he visualizes himself playing in the NFL. Sometimes his daydreams are so intense he gets chills and loses concentration. But the same image always helps Poindexter regain his focus—the one in which he gives his parents the keys to the new house he has had built for them.
Anthony says that every day he thinks of the sacrifices his parents made for him and his older brother, John Jr. For as long as Anthony can remember, his father, John, has worked two jobs. At 5:30 on most weekday mornings Anthony's dad goes to work for the landscaping business he owns in Forest, Va. From 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., he serves as a shipping manager at a warehouse, and then he returns to landscaping and labors until at least 10 p.m. On Saturdays he landscapes all day. Anthony's mother, Lois, cleans houses two to three days a week.
"We didn't have a lot, but my parents always made sure we had everything we needed," says Anthony. "I think about what they go through and how I want to help give them a better life. My parents aren't looking for a handout and really wouldn't care if I didn't play football. But they have done so many things for me, I can't wait to give something back."
One of the fiercest hitters in college football, the 6'1", 220-pound Poindexter could have forgone his senior season and entered the NFL draft—he was projected as a second- or third-round pick—but he decided to return to school, in part because he wanted to dispel doubts about his pass coverage. "I love to be around the ball and hit people, that's my game," he says. "But I can do much more than that." Against Maryland on Saturday he had two sacks, 19 tackles, forced a fumble and broke up a pass, but didn't add to his career 10 interceptions.
Poindexter has been playing defense since peewee league. In those days he idolized then San Francisco 49ers safety Ronnie Lott and tried to emulate Lott's style of play. "I figured I'd rather hit than be hit," says Poindexter. At Virginia he'll be forever remembered for the stick he put on Florida State running back Warrick Dunn in 1995. On the final play of the game Poindexter made the initial hit that stuffed Dunn at the goal line as the Cavaliers won 33-28 and became the first ACC team to beat the Seminoles in conference play.
Poindexter is a vocal leader on and off the field, and his enthusiastic demeanor adds life to practices. His 296 tackles are the 10th most in Virginia history, and his work ethic mirrors that of his father. "You don't get many like Anthony in a lifetime," says Cavaliers coach George Welsh. "I can remember talking to [defensive backs coach] Art Markos when Anthony first came here. I saw we had something special and told Art that his mission was not to screw it up."
Nothing can make Poindexter lose sight of his dream. Every time he feels down or tired he remembers his parents and is inspired to work harder. He's three months from getting his degree in anthropology and less than a year, it appears, from building his parents their dream house. He isn't sure which will make them happier.