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Isheem has all the promise and potential of realizing his dream of becoming a professional football player in the near future. Courted by some of the top Division I college football programs in the country, with full ride scholarship offers from 33 universities, Isheem’s future screeched to a halt when, at the age of 17, he was involved in an incident for which he was charged in the adult criminal justice system.

2016: Isheem at Imhotep Charter School in Philadelphia. Photo credit: Aaron Windhorst, Staff Photographer used with permission of The Inquirer.

YSRP began working with Isheem while he was being held in the adult jail on State Road in Philadelphia. From those who know him best, we heard repeatedly that Isheem is a leader who can inspire others. From his family, we learned that Isheem had to grow up quickly, taking on many responsibilities caring for his family and those around him.

He supported his family while juggling his schoolwork, training and work-outs for football at increasingly competitive levels. His superior athletic ability was recognized by football recruiters before he started high school. He has been described by his coaches as a “once in a lifetime” athletic talent. More importantly, they describe his “exceptional personal and leadership potential.”

While he awaited the court’s determination of whether he should face charges as an adult or a child, Isheem persevered and graduated from high school. During that time, we partnered with Isheem, his defense attorney and the team of supportive adults he had long forged relationships with–his extended family members, his coaches from before and during high school, and other mentors of his who had taken him under their wing–to present the prosecutor and judge in adult court with a much fuller picture of who Isheem is, and the extent of his future goals and potential. This led to his case being “decertified” to juvenile court. There, Isheem was ordered to spend several months in a juvenile residential placement.

Because Isheem successfully avoided the burden of an adult criminal conviction, he continued to receive scholarship offers from colleges and universities. YSRP continued to work closely with Isheem’s high school coaches and the college coaches who recruited him to navigate the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) process, and to help secure Isheem a full-ride scholarship to Iowa State University. Today, Isheem is a freshman and a member of Iowa State’s football team. We know Isheem is fulfilling his dream, and we look forward to standing by his side and cheering him on in all of his future successes.

November 2019: Isheem, #15, at football practice at Iowa State University. Photo credit: Derek Hoodjer, Director of Player Personnel, Iowa State University Football Program.

Isheem has always had a magnetic, engaging personality. Throughout high school, I saw him develop into a thoughtful peer leader. He is impressive on the field, but off the field his personality and potential really shine through. Isheem helps motivate other players. Once he realized the impact he could have as a leader, he started taking a strong role in managing practice and team dynamics. If a player is having a tough day or acting out, Isheem will talk to him to get practice or the workout back on track. When Isheem sees teammates struggle with workouts, plays, or focusing, he will speak with them and help them through whatever they are struggling with.

Devon Johnson, one of Isheem’s coaches from Imhotep Institute Charter High School

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