For most of us, it’s merely where we live, but a true home is more than just a residence. It’s a special place — a comfortable and safe place.
For Chaparral senior Quentin McCloud, home is on the football field. And it’s not just because of McCloud’s love of the sport. It’s because of a difficult family life that often has left him without parental support, supervision or even enough to eat.
"School and football is his escape," Chaparral coach Fernando Carmona said. "Where he feels most at home is at Chaparral."
McCloud has been a fixture on the football field for the Cowboys, starting for three years.
"He’s the heart and soul of Chaparral football, and he has been for the last three years that he’s been on varsity," Carmona said.
But McCloud’s mother, Lori Felix, hasn’t been as much of a fixture in her son’s life. Though McCloud, 18, says things only recently got bad, Chaparral’s coaches say he basically has been on his own for stretches since his freshman year.
"He’ll go four and five days without seeing Mom," Carmona said.
McCloud concedes that Felix, a single mom, virtually abandoned him at times.
"For like a week, I didn’t see my mom because she was staying with her boyfriend," McCloud said. "She never called, she never left a note saying that she was going."
Rather than wilt under the pressure and responsibility of taking care of himself at such a young age, McCloud has thrived.
He’s among the area’s leading rushers this season, with 1,214 yards and 15 TDs. And no defensive player has been more productive — McCloud has registered 207 tackles at linebacker for the Cowboys (2-7, 2-4 Northeast Division).
"He stays extremely positive," Carmona said. "I think deep inside he’s really hurting. I think he waits until Friday nights and just lets all his aggression out on the football field."
McCloud said his mother made a series of bad decisions. He said her recent boyfriend took advantage of her and that Felix spent more time looking after her boyfriend’s children than caring for her own son.
"I’m not going to say she forgot about me, but she doesn’t do the same stuff she did with me before those other kids came," McCloud said. "She was kind of taking care of them instead of me. I’m not sure if it was because I was older and they were younger, but it still shouldn’t change."
McCloud said he stopped talking to his mother altogether, recently moving in with the family of his girlfriend, Lucy Palacios.
McCloud said it wasn’t easy to deal with being forced to fend for himself as a teenager.
"It’s tough, because you’re only used to everything being given to you," McCloud said. "When there’s nobody to give stuff to you, you start questioning yourself. ‘How far can I go?’ "
After going through the motions in school for two years, McCloud decided he wanted to go to college. He changed his study habits and has improved his grades to the point that he’ll be eligible to play as a freshman under NCAA guidelines.
He’s even taking honors classes in Spanish, world history and government.
"Freshman and sophomore year, I never really thought about how grades were supposed to be," McCloud said. "All I did was try to be eligible for football."
Carmona said McCloud finally realized he needed the grades "to make a better life." McCloud said it wasn’t that difficult to improve his grades, but he had to make the choice first.
"It wasn’t really that hard. It’s just that when you decide to change, you can’t wait," McCloud said. "You’ve just got to go ahead and do it while you still have the chance."
McCloud said he went to practice hungry "most of the time" but that he didn’t like to bother others with his problems. The coaching staff took notice, however, and began keeping food in an assistant coach’s office for McCloud. And Carmona said McCloud looks forward to team meals on Thursdays.
"We have a special fridge just for Q," Carmona said. "We try to keep him as nourished as we can.
"His favorite day with us is Thursday, because he knows he’s going to get a good meal."
McCloud doesn’t like to ask for the help, but knows he sometimes needs it.
"It comes to a point in time where there’s no food in the fridge and you’re hungry," McCloud said. "I really don’t want to ask Coach for it, but I really have to at the same time."
McCloud doesn’t dwell on how tough he has it, often downplaying his situation.
"Some football players are always going to be on their own at some point in time in high school," McCloud said. "I just got used to it and kept doing my own thing."
But Carmona points to a game this season that showed McCloud’s vulnerability. McCloud suffered a concussion against Basic and needed someone to check on him every two hours afterward to monitor his condition. Carmona said McCloud hadn’t seen his mother since Monday that week.
"He told me, ‘If I go home, nobody can keep me up,’ " Carmona said. "He ended up staying a couple days at my house."
McCloud’s situation certainly has been difficult, but he’s not entirely without support. In addition to his coaches and teammates at Chaparral, McCloud has his grandmother, Annie Felix, to look out for him.
McCloud said he talks to his grandmother almost daily, and Annie Felix makes it out to see her grandson’s games despite suffering from multiple sclerosis and being confined to a wheelchair. Carmona said Annie Felix has to rely on buses but still makes it to the games.
"Since freshman year, she goes to all my games," McCloud said. "Every time I look in the stands, the first person I see is my grandma."
McCloud said his grandmother has tried to ease his mind with her faith.
"My grandma, she taught me not to worry about anything," McCloud said. "She’s very religious. She told me not to worry, God will take care of everything. So I don’t worry about anything that much anymore."
McCloud refuses to give up on his mother despite their strained relationship.
"She was never a bad person, but she just started making bad decisions," McCloud said. "Lately, she’s been making bad decisions, and I just couldn’t deal with that. But I love her with all my heart."
Contact Prep Sports Editor Damon Seiters at firstname.lastname@example.org or (702) 380-4587.Preps Central