Back in the third or fourth grade — no one can quite remember exactly when — Deatrich Wise Jr. went on a winter field trip with his Granby Elementary School classmates.
And when returned to his Norfolk, Va., home that afternoon, little Deatrich was missing his jacket. It turned out that another boy — one without a jacket — was cold.
“My mom was a little mad because that was a pretty good jacket,” Wise Jr. recalled recently with a chuckle.
Now a star Arkansas senior defensive end — and potential first-round NFL Draft pick next spring — Wise looks back at his upbringing and his family’s emphasis on community service and caring for others and says that regardless of any of his gridiron success, his life is better off for it.
According to Wise’s parents, community service was never an option.
“He’s seen his momma do it,” said his father, Deatrich Wise Sr.. “We did it together, taking the kids with us in strollers. They’ve seen us do it. It rubs off.
“It was almost like tying your shoe; it was so natural.”
The Wise family has always made community service a priority, whether it was delivering hot meals to senior citizens, working in soup kitchens or simply cutting the grass for elderly church members.
Sometimes, Deatrich Wise Sr. and his wife, Sheila, would come home and find that one of their kids had brought a stray animal into the house.
The Wise kids occasionally ended up without all of the lunch money their parents had given them at the beginning of the week.
“If I see somebody in need, I feel like I need to help out,” Deatrich Jr. said.
Deatrich Wise Sr. was himself a football star, playing defensive tackle at Jackson State before an NFL career that included stops with the Seattle Seahawks and New Orleans Saints. After his playing days ended, he and his family settled in Virginia, where Deatrich Sr. was a high school football teacher and coach.
Sheila Wise has spent several years as a nurse in the Army — her relocation to Fort Hood is why the family moved from Virginia to Texas — and is now a nurse manager at the VA Hospital in Dallas.
Both of them grew up in families that valued community service, and that is something they passed on to their children. It was just expected that the Wise children would participate in these things.
Deatrich Jr. ranks in the top-10 on the list of career sacks in Arkansas football history and has been projected by some as a first-round 2017 NFL Draft pick.
But those things were never most important in the Wise household.
“My dad always said, ‘No matter what you do on the field, if someone can say that you were a good man and always gave back, that’s one of the highest compliments you can receive,’” Deatrich Jr. said.
During a lengthy telephone interview, as the Wise parents took turns talking about the value of community service, Deatrich Sr. said, “We have a saying in our house.”
Then, as he began to share it, Sheila joined with him, and the two simultaneously said, “Service is the price you pay for the space you occupy.”
“If you learn to serve, you’ll be a better person,” Deatrich Sr. continued. “A better husband, father, friend, teammate. Just a better person.”