With Father's Day approaching this Sunday, Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland took to the Player's Tribune to pen a thoughtful letter to his daughter, Jaelle, celebrating her birthday this weekend.
Three years ago, she was the greatest Father's Day gift he could ask for. As he was preparing for the most important football season of his life – a junior year at Clemson -- he was also trying to determine how he would possibly handle the responsibilities of fatherhood. It was a daunting prospect.
But, as he writes, he had help along the way. Grandma Tanya and Grandma Vina were saviors.
"Always be nice to them," he writes to her. "Because you'll never know how much they stepped up, not just to help take care of you while I was in school and playing football -- changing diapers, late-night feedings, all that stuff -- but also how they taught Mama and me how to be parents. Looking back now, we couldn't have done it without them."
Breeland describes his own childhood to her, growing up in inner-city Allendale, S.C., an area prone to crime and poverty. His own father was absent from his life until, at 16 years old, Bashaud moved back in with him. His mother had split up with his stepdad and took the family to Columbia, S.C., but Bashaud wanted to stay in Allendale and finish high school there.
"I knew that if I wanted to be happy, I had to invite my dad into my life and make an effort to build a real father-son relationship. That's a hard thing to do 16 years into your life. You can't make up for lost time, but we started working on our relationship, and I did everything I could to forgive him, let go of my resentment and welcome him into my life."
The Redskins made Breeland a fourth-round pick in 2014, and he has continued to grow as a cornerback. He writes that the way he's grown as a player has been by watching other talented veterans in the league – DeAngelo Hall and Dashon Goldson, to name a couple.
He wasn't afforded that opportunity when it came to fatherhood.
It's what's motivated him through the last three years. He doesn't want Jaelle to have the same upbringing that he did.
"Thank you, baby. Thank you for being the thing that drives me every day. For motivating me to keep working to give you the kind of life I never had growing up. Because I don't know if I would be where I am right now — heading into my third year in the NFL, making an impact on the field and building a beautiful family at home — if you hadn't come along and shook things up the way you did."