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Syracuse LB Zaire Franklin’s Motivation for Success


Shelice Highsmith made a promise to herself when she gave birth to Zaire Franklin in July 1996.

Highsmith had been the first in her family in two generations to attend college, but was dropping out to raise Franklin as a single parent in North Philadelphia. Her son, as she would remind him and the rest of her family throughout his childhood, would be the first to graduate.

“You’re going to go to college and finish college, unlike me,” Highsmith’s sister, Marla Burke, remembers Highsmith saying. “You’re going to be something in life, even if I have to die trying.”

Highsmith suffered for years from a recurring tumor on the occipital nerve at the base of her brain and ultimately died from heart failure in February 2013. About two months later, her mother and the other primary caretaker of Franklin, Juanita Highsmith-Bailey, died from sepsis-induced kidney failure.

Now a senior linebacker on the Syracuse football team, Franklin is four months away from graduating from SU a semester early with a Bachelor’s degree in finance. But he’s accomplished far more than that. Franklin is expected to become the Orange football team’s first three-time captain since the 1890s and shares the passion for racial equality that can be traced up his mother’s family tree.

To read to the full article click here: Decorated Syracuse football LB Zaire Franklin driven by deaths of mother, grandmother

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