ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Lavontae Bonds and Eynni Pailin are two cousins and Sutherland grads who recently accomplished their dreams of playing college football, as they’ll be going to play Division I at Saint Francis.
“It’s a blessing,” says Pailin. “Me and my dad have been waiting for this blessing to happen for a very long time and it finally came. It’s very exciting.”
Both moved into the Pittsford school district, Bonds as a 7th grader, Pailin, a freshman.
“It took patience to be able to move from a different background,” says Bonds. “It was cool though, a very good transition, I liked it a lot.”
While Bonds moved from the RCSD, Pailin was born and raised in Baltimore and moved to Rochester to live with his dad after the sometimes violent protests surrounding the death of Freddie Gray. A CVS was burned down less than 50 yards from his bedroom window.
“It was kind of scary because I didn’t know if my life was going to get taken away or not,” says Pailin.
“Every day you kind of literally had to worry about it,” says Tony Wilson, Pailin’s father, and Bonds’ uncle. “As the whole thing, the scenery was just playing out, it seemed to be the youth violence got really, really high during that time. It was really a no brainer. You needed to make sure that if you could, you had to get your child into a better situation.”
In addition to adjusting to a new home and friends, Pailin had to put in a lot of hours to catch up with his peers academically.
“He really had to start from scratch basically. He had the Baltimore City School District and the Pittsford School District which are total opposites. He was missing a lot of the academic prerequisites that he needed just to be caught up,” says Wilson. “I think when a lot of people first saw that, they counted him out and didn’t really know how he was going to do. But he worked really hard and he studied really hard.”
“People never really saw how much he was really putting into it,” Wilson adds. “In order for him to do that he really had to buy into what his dream was and he wanted it and we went out and he worked hard to get it.”
After graduating from Sutherland, Pailin spent one year at Milford Academy, a football prep school in New Berlin, to further attract the attention of college scouts.
It was a long road for both Sutherland grads to make their way to St. Francis, but now they both get to accomplish their dreams together.
“It was good, it was a lot of fun being able to have my cousin there right by my side throughout the whole way,” says Bonds. “It was truly a blessing.”