A TALL FLORIST DELIVERYMAN WITHOUT A LICENSE
When I first met Marcos Santos he was attending a junior college in Temple Terrace, Florida. A native of the hard scrabble slums of Rio de Janeiro, he had only been in the United States for a couple of years. Let’s just say his English was not the best, but he was a very likable kid with a great sense of humor and a big smile on his face all the time. I will never forget one of the first things he said to me. I asked him how his English class was going. He told me he was writing a report on “Magical” Johnson. I knew he would be a struggle academically, but he was 6-foot-9 and a good kid. However, due to his transfer status he would have to do some additional class work to be admitted into the University of North Florida. He fell under a unique UNF rule that stated a junior college transfer had to transfer 60 hours or it would revert back to high school grades, regardless of a grade point average in junior college. When Marcos committed we explained to him that he needed to take a couple classes at the local junior college. We added that we would do what we could to help him.
That summer he enrolled in sociology and photography at Florida Community College-Jacksonville (FCCJ). One of our other recruits, Aaron Nichols, was already in town, so they shared an apartment. Marcos was hired as the tallest deliveryman in LaMee Florist history. One drawback was that he didn’t have a driver’s license. Therefore, someone drove him to each location and he walked the flowers to the door. The feedback was always positive. He was just a beautiful person to be around. He was the type of kid who could light up a room. Everything went along well until I got a call in the middle of the night from his roommate, Aaron Nichols. He told me Marcos was on the side of his bed threatening to kill himself. I got in my car and rushed right over. Upon entering the apartment I spotted Marcos on the side of his bed with his head down. He explained if he didn’t pass his classes he would have to go back to his poverty stricken neighborhood in Brazil. His said he would rather die than go back home a failure. He then pulled out a gun from under the bed he bought at a pawnshop. There were a few tense moments, but finally I convinced him to put away the gun. We talked and talked until the sun came up. I assured him I would get him through classes. Talk about pressure. Making a couple free throws was nothing compared to that challenge. From that point on we met four times a week in the Waffle House for breakfast and I tutored him in sociology. I don’t know who was more relieved when he received a passing grade—him or me. He was officially admitted. He went on to graduate from the University of North Florida. And, in fact, wrote such a heart rendering essay on his CLAST Exam that he scored a perfect score. Upon his graduation he went to work for the Discovery Channel in South America and rose to the top of the Weather Channel. Ultimately, he became the President of the Weather Channel in South America. Wanting to do more he came back to Jacksonville with his wife and started a school for young students.
His life was tragically cut short in a motorcycle accident, but his legacy will live on. To this day he is one of my biggest success stories.