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A Miner's Son
Takeo Spikes
October 02, 2006
Bills LB Takeo Spikes honors his dad's life and words
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October 02, 2006

A Miner's Son

Bills LB Takeo Spikes honors his dad's life and words

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My father grew up in Georgia, and his father was a sharecropper. But when my father--his name was Jimmie--was 12, my grandfather had a heart attack while working the fields. My father quit school and took over plowing the fields to support the family.

When he was older, he began working in a kaolin mine. It was one of the main sources of income in the area. If one of your parents worked in the mine, you were doing O.K. Kaolin is a fine, white clay used for ceramics and to coat paper. They worked in a silo in the mine, mixing kaolin with water and chemicals. When they drained it, the sediment would settle to the bottom and be harder than cement. My father's job was to get a jackhammer, break the sediment into chunks and lift it out of the silo. He made me work there during summers so I would know what manual labor felt like to motivate me to get out of Sandersville, Georgia, where I lived with him and my mom [Lillie] and my sister and two brothers.

My father wanted me to make my own decisions and live with their consequences. He told me to be a leader. He would have me look at packs of birds and say they were all followers and that I should be an eagle, because they soar alone. He also said I should never look back, because the more time I spent looking back, the more time it would take to accomplish my goal.

My father was diagnosed with a brain tumor when I was with the Bengals in 2001. Nine months later he died at age 62. A lot of his friends who worked in the mine also died from cancer. My father worked there 32 years, and I believe the chemicals took their toll. That game against the Browns [two days after Jimmie died] was the first start I had missed since joining the league. It was hard to miss it, but my heart was too heavy.

During the year my father was sick I began writing his initials on my wrist tape before every game, and I have done it since. It's a way of dedicating my career to him. He was such a hard worker, and he was right to push me. My parents named me Takeo because it means great warrior in Japanese. I try to live up to my name.

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