For Some NC A&T Athletes, Focusing On The Game Is A Hard Task After Hurricane Florence

Sep 23, 2018

N.C. A&T football player Dontae Keys (79) waited out Hurricane Florence with team mates at school as his hometown of Fayetteville sustained damaged in the hurricane's path. Football has kept him busy as he practices Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, in Greensboro, N.C.
Credit Lynn Hey / For WUNC

After a temporary hiatus due to Hurricane Florence, a number of college sports teams across the state are back in action.

While some North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University student athletes had to stay in Greensboro during the storm and the immediate recovery, their minds were elsewhere.

When you have problems at home like the storm, it really makes you want to go home and check on your family. -Dontae Keys

Dontae Keys’ backyard in his Fayetteville home is flooded and some shingles are missing from its roof.

However, he can’t think about it too much now that he’s at football practice preparing for an upcoming game.

The college sophomore and right tackle for the Aggies football team said it was a blessing to be safe in Greensboro and also a curse to not be with his family during Florence.

“When you have problems at home like the storm, it really makes you want to go home and check on your family,” he said. “But at the same time, this is good environment so it helped me get my mind off of a lot things.”

N.C. A&T football player Dontae Keys (79) waited out Hurricane Florence with team mates at school as his hometown of Fayetteville sustained damaged in the hurricane's path. Football has kept him busy as he practices Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018, in Greensboro, N.C.
Credit Lynn Hey / For WUNC

For Xavier Williams, focusing on golf was a struggle. Williams is a freshman at A&T and is on the school's golf team. 

Florence hit his hometown of Winnabow, North Carolina, located in Brunswick County.

He said it was hard to listen to his parents when they told him to stay safe in Greensboro.

His father had to stay at his job at a chemical plant for nearly 72 hours for safety reasons. His mom thought of coming further inland, but didn't want to leave her husband behind.

It was a frustrating time for Williams.

“I don't like not knowing what's going on, and I know it sounds crazy, but I'd rather be there with everybody and my family knowing what's going on than being here and not know what's going on,” he said.

Eventually, both Williams and Keys were able to reach their families after the storm. Both of their families are okay.

Keys said his family is working on recovery in the aftermath of Florence.

“They're really working on repairing things,” he said. “I know my mom planned a vacation to kind of get away from everything.”

Until they're reunited with their families later this year, both athletes will continue to prepare for their upcoming games.