BRADENTON, Fla — Even if Joe Este doesn’t make it any further as a defensive back with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, it will be hard for people not to root for him in his pursuit of a pro football career.
Este, 24, has a lot more people to look out for than just himself.
Three years ago, at the age of 21, he took full custody of two of his nephews, after their mother — Este’s sister — abandoned them. Her whereabouts unknown, it was either going to be the state of Louisiana or Este who got custody of the boys and the young college football player saw only one choice.
With the help of his mother, grandmother and another sister, he has been raising Christopher, 9, and Zackary, 10, for the last few years while attending classes and playing football at Tennessee Martin University and while trying to make it as a professional.
“When I got the phone call from my mom saying she couldn’t do it because she was sick (with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), I knew it was either me, or they go to the state,” Este said Thursday after participating in the Blue Bombers mini-camp at IMG Academy. “I called her back two hours later and said ‘I’ll be there to get them. Have them ready.’
“I couldn’t see the boys go to the state because I didn’t want them to be split up, I didn’t want them to be split from the family, so I went ahead and took on that challenge.”
Near the end of 2018, Este legally adopted the boys.
They now call him ‘Dad.’
“They are good boys,” Este said. “Well-mannered, respectful, they’d do anything, give you the shirt off their back, like me. They are straight-A students in school, have good conduct. The teachers love them. Everywhere we go in town, people love them because they are just so sweet. The boys hold the door open for everybody else to walk through. They are real generous kids.”
Este has been working as a substitute math teacher in New Orleans to help support the boys but he still believes pro football is his best bet.
“This football career, if I can live it out to the fullest, it can change my life drastically,” Este said. “And it can change my boys’ lives just as much as mine. So I’m gonna push until I can’t push no more. When I come out here, it’s not about ‘me,’ it’s about ‘we.’ My thinking process is the boys first and then I’m in the game.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019