News from the Tennessee Valley Sports
FRIDAY, JUNE 1, 2007

Prep all-star honors his late mother

MOBILE (AP) — Michael Antonescu is preparing for a future playing college football and hopes to eventually attend medical school.

But when he takes the field for Saturday night’s Alabama Mississippi All-Star Classic, he will as always display a memento from the past.

The Mississippi offensive lineman from Ridgeland High School wears a sticker with his mother’s initials, “JSA,” on his helmet.

“I don’t ever play a game without it,” he said.

Jill Antonescu died in 2005 after what was believed to be a sudden cardiac arrest, leaving Antonescu and his younger brother, A.J., without a home since their father was no longer part of their lives. Antonescu said he wore her initials throughout his senior season and plans to keep doing so next season at Memphis.

“She was my biggest fan,” he told the Press-Register in a story Thursday. “To see all these good things happen now and her not be here is real disappointing.”

Nine local families offered to take in the siblings. They wound up living with Gerard and Julie Gibert, whose son plays baseball with A.J.

“They’re just one of the families that came forward,” Antonescu said. “We clicked the best with them. They’re wonderful people for taking us in.”

The Giberts are big Mississippi fans, with skybox seats at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. But the 6-foot-4, 280-pound Antonescu, an all-state performer, opted to sign with Memphis instead.

The Giberts now also have box seats in Memphis.

“Yes, they love Ole Miss,” Antonescu said, “but they’re going to support me, too.”

He has met other teens and children in foster care situations through retreats and Destination Future, a program that brings foster children from every state to Washington, D.C.

Antonescu now wears a bracelet on each hand in memory of those trips, a Destination Future band and one that reads, “Now is the time, today is the day.”

“I realized my situation ain’t that bad,” he said. “The tragedy you have in these kids’ lives and I’m over here mad because I’ve got no gas money, or something trivial like that. It reminds me I should be thankful for what I have.”

Antonescu also credits Ridgeland coach Kenny Burton for helping him through the tough times. “He’s like my father,” he said. “I learned everything from him, from how to shave to how to be a man to how to present myself.”

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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