West Side assistant coach Alger Boswell III (from left), West Side graduate and rapper Freddie Gibbs, assistant coach James “Coach K” Kirklen, head coach Jason Johnson and assistant coach Anthony Jones with shoes Gibbs donated to the school’s football team. Gibbs wore number 51 while on the West Side team. | Photo provided
Updated: October 7, 2013 12:40PM
West Side Leadership Academy freshman and football player Kaylin Brookshire, 15, hobbled on his crutches alongside 2000 alumnus and rapper Freddie Gibbs, who returned to his alma mater Aug. 29 with a surprise for Brookshire and his teammates.
“I bought the entire football team brand new Adidas cleats,” Gibbs said to Brookshire, who stopped hopping and gave a look of disbelief to Gibbs.
“Are you serious?” Brookshire asked, forgetting all about his injured hamstring.
“Yeah man, I am serious,” Gibbs said while joining his long-time mentor Jason Johnson, the Cougars’ head football coach. Gibbs, who currently lives in Los Angeles, has a sponsorship with Adidas, including a gym shoe with the acronym ESGN — Evil Seeds Grow Naturally — that is also the name of his latest album.
“I have a deal with Adidas and I told them I wanted to give back to my old high school. I appreciate everything my mentor did for me. I was once in these kids’ shoes and no one’s done anything like this for me when I was a student here,” Gibbs said. “I am going to always represent my city and my school.”
Johnson and assistant coaches Alger Boswell III, Anthony Jones and James “Coach K” Kirklen joined Gibbs as they led the football team inside the locker room. The reaction to the pyramid of boxes containing new football cleats set off an alarm of shouts.
Gibbs had posted the photo of the shoes on his Instagram page hours before coming to West Side, but nothing made him happier than to hear the applause and cheers. Johnson quieted the noise with a stern talk about returning home and giving back.
“God put in this position to mentor and to sow the seeds,” he said. “Gibbs was once sitting where you are right now and he was crazy! But I did not back down on him. Twenty years later he returns to bring shoes for the entire team. He did not have to do this,” Johnson continued.
Gibbs became emotional talking about Johnson. “This man is like a father to me…and I grew up with both my parents, but Johnson also did what he needed to do to help shape me into who I am,” he said. Brookshire grinned after the presentation. “I love it! Freddie Gibbs is a good man. You have all of these other Gary people who leave and become famous and never come back to do something for the kids. Freddie is for real,” he said.