Long gone

Potential is a father, Dwayne Morgan Sr., silent for a long time on the other end of the phone, searching for what to say.

"Oh man … oh my God … oh my God," he says from Atlanta, the city he was born near and where he was over the summer, working as a truck driver. "I know he needs me. I know he needs me right now. … I miss him."

Before leaving Clemson, Chambers says she fell in love with Dwayne Morgan Sr., who played on Clemson's offensive line before six seasons in the Canadian Football League, before stints with the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins, before the tendons tore in his knees.

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Shortly after their son's birth, they all lived together in Canada.

"Initially," says Chambers, "I tried to make it work."

In November 1996, after four months in Canada, she was back in Park Heights, living in a two-bedroom apartment and sorting mail at the post office to get by. Her boy was going on 1.

As he grew, she says she'd put him on an airplane each summer to Atlanta to be with his father. Whenever the child argued with her, she'd encourage him to call his father. She'd encourage him to call his father whenever, she says.

"As a single mother, when you know you're doing all that you possibly can, when you're trying to keep those lines of communication open, you get tired," Chambers says.

She stops to dab at the tear lining her cheek.

"I've never been one to down my son about his dad," she says. "He loves his dad with all his heart, but I knew that he would see it for himself."

The summer visits ended when he was 14.

"I didn't understand it until this year," Morgan says. "Don't get me wrong — my father is a good guy. But I had this certain image of my father that he could do no wrong. Everyone has their faults, but I guess it took me a minute to realize.

"As I got older, I realized my mother is pretty much the only one that's really been there for me through everything."

She was once there crying with him inside the Arlington Middle School office. Her boy was walking home before he was jumped by a bigger boy for refusing to join a gang.

Some things, she told him, we don't have control over.

The game

Potential is a basketball, a thing that could be controlled. Neighbors would either yell for him to stop that damn dribbling, or, if he was without his ball, ask where it was.

His mother first bought him a little ball when she could see he was athletic, like his parents.

"Something told me early on to get him involved in something because I knew how the streets are around here," Chambers says.