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Kenneth Farrow's 'purpose' is helping others

Kenneth Farrow's Grind With A Purpose foundation on the sideline pregame.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 8 years old or 28 years old, you have to have some type of purpose. You have to have some type of reason why you wake up every day.”

Kenneth Farrow

SEATTLE – For Dragons running back Kenneth Farrow, his purpose is helping young students find theirs.

Growing up in Hurst, Texas, he felt lucky to have his father, and his father’s friends, as coaches and mentors in his life.

“My dad and a couple of his friends who coached along with him, they always kind of kept my mind on the football field and away from any of the other possibilities that I could find myself in that could be trouble,” Farrow said. “I see how big it was for me, because there were definitely different routes I could have taken and came pretty close to.

“Without the pull of those men in my life, I might not be here having this conversation right now so I know the importance of being able to have a strong figure in a young man’s life.”

While he understood the importance of those lessons at the time, he didn’t understand how he could have a similar impact on the youth in his community, until he was forced to take a break from football

“My second year in the NFL I had ankle surgery,” he said. “I was sidelined for about 11 months. It was probably the first year since I was five years old, where I had that time period of not playing, so I really just wanted to make sure I was productive with my time.”

It was during that time away from football he came up with the idea for a foundation – Grind With A Purpose – with his friend Trayveon Greenberry. They spent four months writing a curriculum, filing paperwork to become a non-profit and finalizing all of the necessary details to make their vision a reality.

“What we did, is we went into our school that we’re at now – KIPP Sunnyside in Houston,” Farrow said. “We said we’ll take 20 kids from the sixth, seventh and eighth grade. We picked those grades because we feel like that’s the time you really start to make good or bad decisions that can lead to good or bad places and it’s kind of a critical time growing up. We pretty much just talked to the principals and asked for the 20 kids you think need it the most and said we would like to have them. It doesn’t matter if they play sports or not.”

When the Dragons were in Houston last week, Farrow brought 20 of the students who have been in the GWAP program for about two years to watch him play for the Dragons. They were treated to a pregame pizza party, given sideline access and even got to conduct some interviews.

While Farrow is happy the kids had a blast, his main goal is to make sure he is leading them toward a specific goal or focus. When you hear from the kids he’s working with, you can tell that’s exactly what he’s doing.

“He's really important, because he brings positive energy to me,” Ja’Darious Mcgrew, 16, said. “He wants us to get through college. He wants us to be the best we can be. I really look up to him as a brother now.”

When Farrow heard Mcgrew considers the running back to be a brother, he replied, “That’s amazing. It’s something that I was looking back at last night, at some of the pictures and I think the biggest thing is, down the road, when I get to look back at pictures like this and events like this, and see where the kids are going to be at in five or six years, that’s something you can’t really get from doing anything else.

“Spending true time with kids that might not have somebody to spend that time with them and, even if they do, it’s always good to have more people. The more people in your corner, the more things you’re going to be able to work out for yourself in life. That’s something I’ve learned. That’s huge. That’s kind of what it’s all about. To hear that, our number one goal is to hear things like that come from them.”

Something the kids might not realize is Farrow feels they are just as important to his life as he is to theirs. His path to the NFL had a lot of obstacles along the way.

Farrow, along with teammates, spent an off day during training camp in Houston speaking at a local school.

Early in his career, he dealt with a fractured shoulder blade, a scary car wreck he feels he and his wife were lucky to walk away from, ankle surgery that saw him miss almost an entire year of football and bouncing around multiple teams.

“I think as a young kid coming out of college and reaching my goal of playing at the NFL level and having those things happen to me back to back to back, it definitely put me in … you know, you hear a lot of guys talking about mental health right now and a lot of people coming out and speaking on that,” Farrow said.

“I definitely went through a stage of depression. I was trying to figure out why I was here and what my purpose was. Hats off to my wife and my family, especially my wife, through those times kind of bouncing all around the country. I’ve been to New England, to Florida, to Seattle. I’ve been coast to coast, and she was definitely a rock for me during those times. So, I think through this journey it has taught me so much. I think that’s one thing the kids might not know until they get older, they kept me going at a time when I was pretty down. They were able to give to me what we’ve been able to give to them, without really knowing it.”

In a way they do know. Even if the students don’t directly realize that investing in their futures brings a greater meaning and happiness to Farrow and Greenberry’s lives, they feel it through the genuine dedication and compassion the two have shown them. That’s a beautiful thing.

Aaron Auzenne, another 16-year-old member of GWAP from Houston wants Dragons fans to know they have something special in Kenneth Farrow.

“Seattle is very lucky to have him, because he's a giving person,” Auzenne said. “I feel like he will teach kids in Seattle to just strive for greatness, and nothing below that.”

Maura Dooley is the Dragons Insider and sideline reporter for 710 ESPN Seattle and she contributes to a weekly Dragons podcast.