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Jermaine Doster seeks to honor brother Kwame at Vanderbilt

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 26, 2013 at 01:34 PM
TAMPA -

Robinson High running back Jermaine Doster will say his brother's legacy at Vanderbilt wasn't what persuaded him to commit to the university.

He'll say he has been in love with the football program since he visited the campus when his older brother, Kwane, used to play football for the Commodores.

"It's just like a second home," Doster said. "I knew a lot of coaches; I knew a lot of people."

But ask him again why he did it. He might glance down at the tattoo on his right forearm, which reads, "Rest in Peace Kwane," and he'll break down and tell you.

"It was a very big part," he said. "It was big."

Kwane, who also attended Robinson, was shot and killed during his junior season in Tampa on Dec. 26, 2004. Jermaine was a sophomore then. Kwane was 21. The charges were dropped on Oct. 31, 2006, against Rodney Roman, the man accused of shooting Doster.

The night of the incident, Jermaine was awakened by the sound of friends tapping on his bedroom window. They said, "Something happened to your brother." He tried to rush out the door but found himself struggling to put on his clothes.

There was an uneasy feeling in the hospital waiting room. Jermaine's mother, Kelly, was in tears. Then the doctor walked in.

"All I heard him say was 'unfortunately,' and that right there took all the breath out of my body," Jermaine said. "I just walked away from everybody, broke down and started crying."

Jermaine wasn't the same. He was just "going through the motions." Football, academics, none of it mattered. Finally, his family told him he had to move on. They told him Kwane wouldn't want to see him wasting his talent.

"I know I can honor him by graduating [from college]," Jermaine said. "As the years go by, I know he would want to see me play."

Kwane had rushed for 4,617 yards at Robinson. He was named the Southeastern Conference freshman of the year, and by his junior year he was the Commodores' leading career rusher for active players with 1,621 yards.

Before his death, Kwane made a promise. He was going to make millions in the NFL and provide for the family. Kelly knew it was important that Jermaine knew he didn't have to fulfill that promise.

"Everybody was telling him he was going to be like Kwane," Kelly said. "I told him he didn't have to fulfill those dreams."

"He's not like his brother," Robinson coach Mike DePue said. "He has his own unique style. He's always been his own man. I think that kept him grounded the last three years."

In some way, however, Jermaine does want to be like Kwane. What he admired most about his brother is that he never seemed intimidated on the football field.

"My brother was never the biggest person on the field," he said. "He was never scared of anybody."

Kelly said she was skeptical of Jermaine going to Vanderbilt. She worried the memories of his brother would linger. Jermaine also thought his brother's legacy would cloud his entire collegiate career.

"It's still in the back of my head," he said. "It might happen, but I really don't know."

In fact, Jermaine was offered the No.1 jersey by Vanderbilt coaches. It was his brother's number and one that was retired by the school in September 2005.

This past season, Jermaine rushed 163 times for 770 yards and seven touchdowns. Villanova and Texas Christian also were interested in offering him a scholarship.

"He's got the ability to be an impact player," DePue said.

Though she will miss him, Kelly knows her youngest child made the right decision.

"I know Vanderbilt will take care of him," she said. "We will always be a part of the Vanderbilt family."

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