Teen shootings hit close to home for Gulfport Pirates

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For teenagers playing football for the Gulfport Pirates, it’s more than just a game. 

  • Two former players shot and killed
  • Third player shot in head early Monday

Their coach Mitchell Abrams said it’s a path to high school and possibly on to play ball in college. 

“When they’re out here, you see the athlete,” Abrams said. “You see the sweet kid saying yes sir, no sir.”

But like most teens, they need guidance and Abrams said he is there to help them realize their potential.

“A lot of times there’s single parents in the home or a child lives with a grandmother.  You know, give them another positive role model,” said Abrams.

Unfortunately, his conversations with the team have taken a much more serious tone.

In the early morning hours Monday, 16-year-old Javarious Martin was shot in the head standing outside a party in South St. Petersburg.  He remains in critical condition.

“The first thing I thought was another player that played for me,” Martin said. “Then I immediately thought back to Gabrielle Wallace who played for us our first year five years ago.”

Abrams said Wallace was the best running back he ever coached. The 17-year-old was shot and killed last December. Tre Larkins, 15, another former player, was shot and killed just this past Friday.

"It’s really heartbreaking to see a child that played for you 3, 4, 5 years ago now dead,” Abrams said.  “Kids should be able to live their lives.  You know at 15, 16, 17 to be shot dead.  You didn’t even have a chance at life.”

Abrams said it’s not easy but, he has to be honest with his players.  Of course, they have questions.  Practicing on Wednesday, one of them asked Abrams when the violence would stop.

“That is a very good question,” Abrams said.  “I wish I could answer that.”

What Abrams can do is be there for them. And when the time comes for his players to leave the team, Abrams said he will have words of advice.

“Don’t follow anyone,” Abrams said. “Set your own path.”

The Gulfport Pirates will hold a unity gather in wake of the recent violence on Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Childs Park recreation center in St. Petersburg.

Bay News 9 – local-news

June 15, 2016 |

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