Hawkish made his move down the home stretch and stormed away from the field to win the $500,000 Penn Mile Grade 2 stakes race at Penn National Race Course. Way Early, ColtAndMississippi, Maraud and Encumbered rounded out the top five finishers.
Encumbered held a narrow lead over Maraud and He’s Bankable going into the final turn, but Hawkish surged from the outside to separate to the finish. Way Early also stormed down the stretch in a runner-up finish.
Hawkish under jockey Manuel Franco wins the 2018 Gr 2 Penn Mile Stakes. @jockeyfranco pic.twitter.com/13Fp9PUi6Q
— Ramon Dominguez (@RAMONandSHARON) June 3, 2018
Penn Mile 2018 results
Win: $4.80. Place: $3.40. Show: $2.80.
2. Way Early
Place: $13.00. Show: $6.00.
$2 exacta: $48.40
$1 trifecta: $159.00
$1 superfecta: $469.80
Philadelphia Eagles’ Avonte Maddox always had speed, family and a plan to rise out of Detroit
Eagles rookie cornerback Avonte Maddox always had a plan to earn an athletic scholarship — but things took a turn when he shifted his focus from baseball to football as a high school junior. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Michael Maddox’s mind drifted to a particular memory last week, one that started with a harmless stroll nearly two decades ago.
Every day, Maddox said, he used to walk his son, Avonte, three blocks from their house in Detroit to the neighborhood preschool. At some point, the pace became too slow for the 4-year old. So Avonte took off running. And fast.
As Maddox tried to keep up, he envisioned for the first time a future for his son that would in some form come to fruition over the next 18 years — an athletic ascent that steered Avonte away from the allure of trouble in Detroit, toward stardom and eventually to a place in this year’s Philadelphia Eagles draft class as a fourth-round cornerback.
It was a lot to draw from a sprinting preschooler. But Avonte was moving that quickly. And Maddox was thinking that far ahead for the son he viewed as a new symbol of purpose in his life.
"I would be speed walking, and he would be running the whole way," Maddox said during a phone conversation. He chuckled and admitted he was tearing up. "I was like, ‘Wow, I gotta get this kid a baseball glove; I gotta get him a football. I gotta see what he can do.’"
Those close to Avonte Maddox say the things fans need to know about the Eagles rookie, who’s in line to compete for the first-team slot corner job, is tied to those gallops to and from school.
Avonte’s always been small with electric speed. His dad has always led a support system close behind him. And there’s always been a plan in place to lift a happy, chatty kid from Detroit toward something bigger.
Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox in action during an NFL football rookie minicamp at the team’s training facility. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
‘A BEST FRIEND’
Avonte Maddox stood at his locker stall after his first practice of organized team activities last week and beamed when a reporter approached. Did he mind talking about his father and his childhood?
Maddox smiled. Of course not. Those are some of his favorite topics.
Avonte’s mother, Melanie Jackson, and Michael Maddox split when Avonte was a baby, and he moved in with his father around age 2.
Avonte was Michael’s first son. They share a birthday — March 31. They talk alike, act alike, think alike.
"Their relationship was more like brother to brother," said Norman Taylor, Avonte’s baseball coach at Martin Luther King High School and Michael’s former classmate. "Mike has a way about him, and Avonte’s always been mature. They were there for each other."
"I look at him like a best friend," Avonte said. "He’s my pops, but I go to him to talk about anything and everything."
A mutual love of sports served as a linchpin for their strong relationship. Michael played baseball, basketball and football in high school and his talents on the gridiron took him to Ferris State, where he on a played Division II squad. Avonte seemed to love any game he tried as a kid, Michael said. Baseball was his favorite at first, so father and son would play catch for hours and ride together to games when Avonte grew older.
Michael tried to let Avonte’s coaches do the teaching, but he would talk to Avonte about each play like an avid fan speaking to a star athlete. He provided tips when he could, too. While these moments helped the two grow close, Michael knew all along that Avonte’s love for sports presented more than a bonding opportunity.
It also offered a helpful hand in parenting.
When Avonte’s mom wasn’t around, Michael worried whether his son would feel a pull toward a concerning path. He was a fun-loving and caring child. Still, drugs, violence and poverty were prevalent in Detroit. Michael envisioned potential pitfalls on the road to a degree or a fulfilling life almost as clearly as he could foresee a promising future for Avonte.
So he leaned on his family and friends to help raise his son.
And he relied on athletics.
"That’s why I tried to keep him in sports, just to keep him off the streets," Michael said. "Me being a concerned parent, I just want the best for him, and the way I could keep that under control, would be to keep him under my wing and keep him away from the wrong kids."
Avonte began playing baseball at age 5, took up travel basketball a few years later and started football at 9. Like many parents, Michael felt as though he had a second job. He’d come from a full day working in computer quality control in the medical industry and head straight to whatever practice or game Avonte needed to attend that day.
Unlike most sports parents, though, Michael Maddox’s aspirations of a scholarship for his son weren’t far-fetched. The talent was there and a plan was in motion — even if a twist was on the horizon.
‘FASTEST KID IN THE SCHOOL’
A crucial afternoon in Avonte’s life unfolded the day he followed his half brother to a King baseball practice when he just in middle school. Taylor told Avonte to bring a glove so he could participate.
Instantly, Avonte was the best athlete on the field, Taylor said. He moved naturally, fired balls across the diamond and obliterated kids four or five years older in a footrace.
Taylor felt like he needed to sit down with Michael Maddox. The two men agreed Avonte had the grades, the ability and the opportunity to earn a scholarship to college, so long as he had a support system — headed by Michael, Taylor and Avonte’s Uncle Charles, among others — guiding him toward that goal.
The thought was this: Avonte’s speed made him one of the best players on the gridiron or the hardwood, but the baseball diamond was most attractive to Avonte and presented opportunity. So he’d focus on his skills in the outfield and the batter’s box.
A cat quick runner with a pure swing and a burning desire to improve, Avonte drew attention immediately at King. Professional baseball scouts began to inquire.
"It was a circus act," Taylor said. "The Royals, Tigers, the Indians, everybody followed him around."
Meanwhile, Avonte played basketball but decided not to try out for football. Until coaches began to hear whispers about him during his sophomore year, that is.
"People kept telling me, ‘Hey, the fastest kid in the school plays baseball,’" said Ty Spence, King’s defensive coordinator at the time. "And I’m like, ‘Yeah, right.’"
— Aaron Kasinitz (@AaronKazreports) May 11, 2018
As Avonte’s high school career progressed, Taylor and Michael began to think about football. It wouldn’t hurt Avonte to stay engaged with a team during the fall, both men thought. And if his skills translate well onto the football field, Avonte could open another avenue toward his ultimate goal of earning a scholarship.
The mentors just needed to convince him to play another sport. So the football coaches told the speedy baseball player he’d be a featured kick returner, which seemed fun. And Taylor said he challenged Avonte to prove that he could shine in three different sports, appealing to the competitive side of the budding star.
Eventually, Avonte agreed. He wanted to give football a shot.
A QUICK RISE
The story Taylor loves to tell goes like this: He approached the late Dale Harvel, at the time King’s football coach, to say Avonte was finally going to branch out and pull on the shoulder pads.
At first, Harvel expressed caution.
"I remember Coach Harvel telling me, ‘Now coach, he needs to be committed, he needs to know this is going to be difficult," Taylor said.
"When I went back to practice at the end of the week just to see how he was panning out, Coach Harvel said — and I’ll never forget this, God bless his soul — he said, ‘Coach this is one of the best players I’ve ever seen on a football field.’"
The way Spence remembers it, Maddox caught a pass on a wheel route out of the backfield during one of his first practices and ran past the entire defense. It was clear than that King had something to work with.
Coaches praised Maddox for his humility and attention to detail. His toughness at 5 feet, 9 inches helped him overcome a slight stature. And then there was the breakneck speed.
"I remember watching once with a college coach who came up to me," Spence said. "He was shocked, because Avonte was backpedaling faster than receivers were running forward."
With newfound attention from college football coaches, Maddox and his support system began to realize the benefits of chasing a football scholarship. He could earn a full ride by playing Division I football, which seemed more enticing than a partial scholarship to play college baseball or an invite to schlep around the country as part of a minor league baseball team without a lucrative contract.
Maddox had a tough time scoring a top-tier offer to college, though. It’s not that football coaches weren’t in awe of the short kid with fire and quickness. The problem was Maddox lacked prototypical size and some questioned his commitment to football, considering his history holding a bat and glove.
"I remember he really wanted to go to West Virginia," Spence said. "He went there to a camp, won MVP of the camp and they still didn’t offer him."
The spurnings and slights never seemed to get to Maddox, his coaches said. And the persistence paid off when Pittsburgh secondary coach and defensive coordinator Eddie House decided Maddox’s blend of speed and tenacity was too good to pass up. Spence said House was the one college coach who thought Maddox’s traits were unique — so he offered a scholarship.
Maddox accepted, committed to a future in football and hasn’t looked back.
A strong four-year college career later, Maddox began preparing for the NFL draft on the heels of a third-team all-ACC selection. He posted a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and a 4-flat 20-yard shuttle at the NFL combine.
In April, with the 125th overall selection, the Eagles took Avonte Maddox and made 20 years of preparation and and partnering worthwhile.
"I can’t describe how proud he’s made me as a father," Michael Maddox said. "It all went by really fast."
Sort of like his son.
Michael Maddox can’t wait for football season.
He went to every King game, serving as the head of Avonte’s cheering section after his mother moved to Texas. He found different ways to follow Avonte’s college career and said he made his way to Pittsburgh whenever the Panthers played at home.
He’s already mapping out his path to Philly, too, thinking about where he might sit in Lincoln Financial Field to watch his son suit up for the reigning Super Bowl champions.
Of course, Avonte must first earn a role on the defense. Michael thinks his son will fit well as the Eagles’ nickelback if given the opportunity to win the job, because of Avonte’s quickness, physicality and aptitude for learning schemes.
It’s just a hunch, Michael said, but he thinks his son is going to surprise some people.
He’s been doing it since preschool.
"I’m just so excited to see him get his chance," Michael Maddox said. "I’m excited for you to see, for everybody to see, what I’ve been seeing for so long."