Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of the “Next Up” series, which profiles the signees from Florida’s 2016 class. SEC Country traveled around the South to visit the recruits before they reported to campus.
MIAMI — Florida linebacker Vosean Joseph hasn’t enjoyed trick-or-treating for almost a decade.
Candy and costumes were ruined for him and his family on Oct. 30, 2007.
“We were all dressed up and I got a phone call,” said Joseph’s mother, Nattalene Vanreil-McDonald. “Halloween has never been the same since.”
Vanreil-McDonald found out her aunt, Ivy McFarland, had suddenly passed away from cancer in Jamaica. McFarland was the cornerstone of their family.
“That was like my mom,” Vanreil-McDonald said. “She is the one who raised me and so many others. She was the oldest of seven, but she served as a mother figure for everyone. She was the model for the entire family.”
Vanreil-McDonald left Jamaica for the United States like many of her relatives, but McFarland remained in her homeland. Once Joseph was born in Miami, Vanreil-McDonald took him to Jamaica every year to stay with McFarland.
“We really had a bond,” Joseph said. “She was an amazing woman. I didn’t want to go to Jamaica anymore once she wasn’t there. The first time I went after her death, I got in her house and all I could do was cry. I ran out and took a long walk by myself.”
Vanreil-McDonald said her son continues to struggle with his great aunt’s passing when they visit Jamaica.
“We were just there in December and we had a get-together by her house, which is still in the family,” Vanreil-McDonald said. “I had to literally force him to go. When we arrived, he didn’t want to go into her house. It still has an affect on him.”
That impact hasn’t been completely negative for Joseph. He wears her shirt under his jersey in every game and keeps pictures of her around.
“I think about her every day,” Joseph said. “She drives me more than anything.”
Coping with her death has helped Joseph deal with difficult experiences growing up in Miami.
“Most people don’t have a lot where I’m from,” Joseph said. “Every other week somebody is losing a friend or a loved one. My background and what I’ve gone through has been difficult.
“It’s not easy coming from Miami, but it’s like that in Jamaica, too. That’s why I go so hard in football. It’s a way to put my family in better homes and situations.”
Joseph, who also has relatives in the Bahamas and Haiti, continues to be motivated by the connection and exposure to his Caribbean heritage.
“Everything is at our fingertips in this country,” Vanreil-McDonald said. “Vosean has seen the way of life for other people and he knows some are not as fortunate as us. Not everyone has a mall to walk into and go shopping for new outfits.
“So every time our family goes to Jamaica, he’ll pass out clothes and shoes he doesn’t need. He also sends bags and toys over there, and I don’t tell him to. He’s willing to do that because he was raised to give a helping hand. His aunt would be proud.”
Zach Abolverdi is the Florida beat writer for SEC Country and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow @ZachAbolverdi
THE NEXT UP SERIES
- Rick Wells relishes role as Jim McElwain’s first commitment
- Murder brought Tyrie Cleveland to Texas, new lease on life returns him to Florida
- Jawaan Taylor underwent major transformation to land offer from Florida
- Brett Heggie grew up a Seminole, but the FSU legacy is Florida bound
- Florida’s Lamical Perine validated by senior season after lack of offers, respect
- Antonneous Clayton used to be an outcast because of another game he played
- Florida’s Jachai Polite, high school teammate are now SEC rivals
- Florida LB Jeremiah Moon overcame severe leg, weight problems growing up