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Elijah McGuire journey from ‘the bad side’ to Jets

Jets running back Elijah McGuire takes some time for a Q&A with The Post’s Steve Serby:

Q: This came from your Twitter feed: “I’m from a hood where struggle is a sport.”
A: They got a lot of guys where I’m from that are very talented, but they get caught up in the streets. They want to do drugs. Every time I go back, they always want to say, “I want to be like you when I grow up.” I don’t do drugs, I never did drugs in my life, so you can’t be like me when you want to grow up if you’re out here doing drugs in the streets and stuff. I don’t know if it’s cool to them or not, but when you’re behind them jail cells? That stuff ain’t fun. I don’t wish that on nobody where I’m from, or anybody in the world, but that ain’t the route to go.

Q: You also wrote: “I grew up in hell a block from heaven.”

A: There’s a bad side, and there’s a good side. And so many people get caught up in that bad side, that they don’t even reach the good side. I was on that bad side, I was on the hell side, but when I got my head straight, I was a block away from heaven. I was doing everything right.

Q: What do you mean you were on the bad side?
A: I was in the streets myself, but I wasn’t doing drugs. I was more in the streets of like coming in the house late. In middle school, in junior high school, I was coming in the house at 1, 2 o’clock in the morning that a kid shouldn’t do. It wasn’t that I was out doing bad, I was just hanging with my friends at their house playing video games. There has been a couple of times I’d come home at that time of night and the police is in front of my momma’s house because she’ll call the police on me. Still to this day, everywhere I go, I let her know where I’m going, and when I was younger I didn’t do that. I told her I wouldn’t do it no more but I just kept doing it.

Q: What stopped you from doing it?

A: Well, it was when my dad passed. I decided to go to private school (Vanderbilt Catholic) so that changed everything, probably one of the best decisions of my life. When you’re in public school where I’m from? You don’t do much schoolwork. My high school was more of college prep, so I couldn’t just come home, throw my book set down and go outside, I had to really do work now.

Q: “Go to sleep broke, that’ll make you dream.”
A: That’s actually a line from Meek Mill. When you go to sleep broke, man, all you want to dream about is having money. And I’m not saying I’m that successful, but I’m in a position to where I can take care of my family, and that’s all you want. Yeah man, there have been many nights I went to sleep dreaming that I could be in a position to take care of my family.

Q: “From the concrete, who knew that a flower would grow?”
A: That’s actually a line from Drake. I think on the path that I was on before I went to private school, man, I was just the concrete, I was hard-headed. And when I went to private school everything changed, I became a flower, so I sprouted up, and I got my head right, I started doing the right things, and now I’m in a great position.

Q: Describe your little 1-year-old daughter Aubree.
A: (Smile) She’s very sassy, man. She’s got to have her way, and I’m the dad that gives her anything she wants. Because if she don’t get her way, she cries, and I don’t like to hear her crying, so whatever she wants, I have to get it for her.

Q: Did fatherhood change you?

A: Yes, man, it made me look at life at a whole different level now. I’m not married, but when you don’t have kids, or you’re not in a relationship, you have a lot of free time, like go out, do whatever you want to do. I can’t do that. I got to come home and spend time with my little girl. You can’t ask for nothing better than that. As a parent, when you’re not home enough, you don’t want to do anything but to come home and spend time with your girl so you all could have that bond when she grows up.

Q: When Aubree gets older, what will you tell her about the adversity you had to overcome growing up in Houma (La.).
A: I’d tell her that the adversity I had to overcome is when I lost my dad at 12, and when she’s old enough to understand that, I will tell her the story that I wanted to stop playing sports, I wanted to stop going to school. But I had to get back on my feet because I had a bright future ahead of me. … One of my basketball coaches (Jose Chapman) took me in. I lived with him for a little while until I got my head straight.

Q: Describe your dad (Elijah Sr.) for me.
A: Great guy. He was one of those guys that never missed any event that I was attending. If he had to leave work, he’d leave work without telling his boss. He had to be at my game, no matter basketball or football, he was there every time. Just always there when you need him. That’s what I miss about him.

Q: Your mom (Marion).
A: Very nice, very respectable woman, well-mannered, and she’s just fun to be around, she likes to have fun.

Q: Her health problems?
A: I was a young boy at the time, I was out of town at an AAU basketball game, and I got a call that my momma got hit by a car. I couldn’t even focus on the basketball game, I was out of mind, and I just couldn’t wait to get home and see what was going on. When I got home, everything was well, but she got two rods in both of her legs. … She’s partially blind. … she’s still standing though, man! She’s standing strong.

Q: Were there hardships financially growing up for you?
A: I grew up in an environment, man, it was very tough, a lot of drugs, a lot of gun violence. A three-bedroom apartment, about four or five of us. But we found a way to make it happen. And we had to deal with it for a couple of years until one of my sisters got older and she moved out, that left three of us in the house, … My two baby sisters shared a room and I had a room to myself.

Q: What was the worst thing you saw?
A: Well one of my friends (Tyrez) in junior high school, he drowned in the bayou. He was funny, a lot of people liked to be around him because he made people laugh a lot. They spent a couple of days looking for him, I’m talking about boats, helicopters, and once they found him, he was all the way in another part of the bayou. It was very tragic for the hometown.

Elijah McGuire
Elijah McGuireGetty Images

Q: What was it like losing your friend T.J. Cantrelle in a separate drowning incident?
A: That Friday we had a game. That Saturday afternoon, they went to an LSU game, there were four of them. So on the way home, Cantrelle, he was driving, with three other people in the vehicle, he drove into a ditch. He wasn’t drinking. He never drank in his life. It was just one of those things you drive into a ditch and you drown. And the seat belt was locked, so none of them could help each other to get out, so they all drowned at one time. I found out that they all passed because the next day, Sunday, I was supposed to go to a Saints game with him and his family, and I’m just calling, and he’s not picking up the phone. And I get on social media, and all I see is Rest In Peace. Four students, Rest In Peace, Rest In Peace. I’m like, “This can’t be true.” So I started calling him and no answer. So what clicked in my mind is, “Let me call his dad to see if it’s really true.” So I called his dad, and all I said was, “Is it true?” He said, “Yes,” broke down crying and hung up the phone. So that’s how I knew that it was really real.

Q: Did you ever have to hide under the bed or anything like that?
A: It never got to that point, but I have heard some gunshots. People were always getting into it with each other, and the first thing they want to do is pick up a gun.

Q: Were there things you couldn’t get for Christmas?
A: There was a bunch of things. I was a big Jordan guy growing up, and I wanted all the Jordans, but I couldn’t get them. The most I’d probably get was probably a pair of boxers and socks. It’s always the thought that counts, so I couldn’t be mad about that.

Q: What is your onfield mentality?
A: My onfield mentality is to beat the guy across from me every time. If it’s a one-on-one matchup with the linebacker, my mentality is to win. Even if it’s a 50-50 ball in the air, go up and get it. Even in the run game, third-and-short, go get the first down, keep the drive alive. And then, the last thing is just finding a way to help my team win.

Q: “I got that beast in my eyes like Tyson.”
A: That’s actually a line from Future. You know Tyson, man, as soon as the bell rang to fight, Tyson’s rushing at you, he’s throwing haymakers and everything, he’s knocking you out the first few seconds of the round.

Q: How does that apply to you?

A: When I get the ball, I’m trying to get 10 yards a pop every time, that’s my mindset. It ain’t no laughing, or no clowning on the field with me. We could be buddies after the game, but in between those lines? I want to be a beast.

Q: Who’s one linebacker in NFL history you’d like to test in the open field?
A: Let me go with a Hall of Famer, let me go with Brian Urlacher. I watched Brian Urlacher play in Chicago when Matt Forte was there, and he was very passionate, he was everywhere where the ball was, and he could run.

Q: The best juke you ever made?
A: I got this move, it’s called the dead leg. It’s just a one-step cut, and it’s quick, and, I mean, it never fails. Everytime I did it, I pretty much made somebody miss.

Q: Why would you want to pick Barry Sanders’ brain?
A: All I could do is watch YouTube clips, and when I watch him, if he’s going right, and somebody’s coming from this way, he don’t even look that way, he just reacts. Like how does he do that? He don’t see anything come from the side, and he’d just make a move and make them miss. I just wish I could just talk to Barry and ask him, “What made you do that?”

Q: What other running backs do you like to watch?
A: Todd Gurley, Zeke (Ezekiel Elliott) …. even Tarik Cohen, I love watching him play ‘cause he could do a lot.

Q: Saquon Barkley?
A: He’s powerful. He’s got speed on the outside. He could do it all as well.

Q: A scouting report on you.
A: Great vision. … Can catch out of the backfield. … elusive … ability to break away … very shifty … great pass protection.

Q: Running backs coach Stump Merrill compared you to LaDainian Tomlinson.
A: That was big, because I watched L.T. growing up, I like his touchdown celebration, I thought about doing it a few times, but I didn’t want to have another story out there — “Oh, Elijah McGuire, he did the L.T. celebration and Stump mentioned him early in camp that he compares.” … I didn’t want that attention. I’m a guy that don’t like attention.

Q: Best NFL moment?
A: When I scored my first touchdown, man, 69-yarder. It was something I’ll never forget.

Q: Coach Todd Bowles?
A: Great guy. Always shooting you straight. He’ll never tell you anything wrong. The type of guy you need in your circle, that’s played the game, that’s been there, done that.

Q: Who are athletes in other sports that you admire?

A: I like LeBron. I’m thinking about taking a trip to Cleveland, Ohio to check out His I Promise School.

Q: New Year’s resolutions?
A: Working on my route-running, just trying to come back Year 3 just have an outstanding year at any given opportunity that’s presented to myself, just taking full advantage of it.

Q: Hobbies?
A: I like action movies, I like to bowl and shoot pool.

Q: Three dinner guests.
A: Barry Sanders; Lil Wayne; my dad.

Q: Favorite movie?
A: Remember the Titans.

Q: Favorite actors?

A: Denzel Washington; Samuel L. Jackson; Will Smith.

Q: Favorite actress?
A: Meagan Good.

Q: Favorite singer/entertainer?
A: Kevin Gates.

Q: Favorite meal?

A: Crawfish stew.

Q: You got your degree at Louisiana-Lafayette in sports management. You must be very proud of that.
A: I’m the baby of six. We all graduated high school except my brother. But I’m the only one that graduated college, and I could carry the McGuire name to a whole different level. My mom was there to see it, but my dad, he’s up above watching, but being there physically. … I know he’s very proud of me.

Q: What drives you?

A: I think I’m pretty much the only one from my city in the last decade that really made it out. And also, my little girl. Just to take care of her and make sure she has food on her plate.

Q: You call yourself Mr. Adversity. You might want to change it to Mr. Overcame Adversity.
A: (Smile) That’s a good one. That’s a good one.

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