Next Monday night at 8pm ET, Alabama and Georgia will take the field in Atlanta for an epic SEC battle over the College Football Championship. If you don’t have a dawg in the fight (pun intended), you may find yourself rooting for Georgia’s star running back Sony Michel after you hear his family’s story.
Jean and Marie Michel immigrated to the United States from Haiti after their first child was born in search of a better life and opportunities for their family. Their son, Sony Michel, is living out that dream playing football at the University of Georgia. For the senior running back, there’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t appreciate the choice his parents made to leave Haiti behind and come to the U.S. in search of a better life.
“To think about what they left behind, from family that they don’t see much and things they owned. To come here with nothing, and start from ground zero — I think that’s what gave me my driving force,” Michel told CBS Sports.
Sony and his brother started playing football at an early age, and after being put on the offensive line for a second season, Sony wanted to quit — but his parents weren’t quitters. They encouraged their son to keep playing, and that’s exactly what he did. When Sony finally switched positions to running back, everything changed. By the time he was in eighth grade, Sony lead the county in rushing yards at the high school varsity level.
Even though Sony was already a high school football star at the age of 14, things started getting hard back at home when both of his parents lost their jobs during the recession.
“It was tough struggling,” Sony’s sister recalls. With both of their parents on unemployment, their next meal wasn’t always a guarantee.
That’s when Sony called his coach to explain that his parents needed jobs.
Two weeks later they went in for interviews and they both landed jobs working at the private high school Sony would now be attending. Sony’s father took a job as the schools custodian. His mother and older sister began working in the school’s kitchen, and they both still work there today.
“That’s when I realized that football created so many opportunities. Me being able to go to a better school for a better education — football provided that,” Sony explained. “For me to be in college right now, football provided that. For my parents to get a job, football played a roll in that.”
Today, Sony Michel, a vocal leader for the Georgia Bulldogs, is ranked third on Georgia’s all-time rushing list, and continues to show gratitude for the game and his family in his success.
“I would say I work hard for them,” Sony explained, referring to his parents with a big smile. “I sacrifice for them. Every decision that I make I think of them.”
Countless kids dream of becoming star athletes, but there aren’t very many who would say that they do it for their parents — and with Sony’s chances of being drafted into the NFL, football should continue to open many more doors for the young man in the future.