Without his second family, Nadab Joseph wouldn’t be committed to LSU nor be playing football
MIAMI — It is nearly Halloween in Miami, but there are zero signs of goons, goblins or costumes during a Wednesday afternoon practice at Miami Edison High School.
Multiple coaches step to the front of the team to impart what’s at stake in the next night’s game against Booker T. Washington.
One player paying a little closer attention is Nadab Joseph, a junior safety who has transformed into a blue-chip prospect in the span of six months.
At 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, Joseph is rated as the No. 15 safety in the Class of 2018. His rise has been a result of excelling at LSU’s June prospect camp, where he received an offer from former Tigers coach Les Miles. He committed two days later before returning home to Miami as a member of the LSU recruiting class.
Since then, Auburn, South Carolina, Florida State and Florida are among the double-digit offers that have followed. A humbled Joseph only could shrug off the attention he’s received since committing to the Tigers.
That Thursday night, Joseph received a visit from his future defensive backs coach, Corey Raymond, who maintains regular communication with his future safety. That alone is enough to show where Joseph is in his football career, and in an even more big-picture sense, his life.
Joseph was raised by his foster mother and did not have a father to help guide him. In ninth grade, a 16-year-old Joseph was one of several children in the foster home, and football was out of the equation.
His foster mother, Ms. Theresa, had planned on Joseph helping out his family in two years when he turned 18. That all changed when Vick Evans walked into his life.
‘We think you’re perfect for him’
When Evans first laid eyes on Joseph, he was the same height as he is now — 6-foot-2 — but about 35 pounds lighter.
That wasn’t even the most alarming thing.
Evans, then a teacher at N.E.W. Generation Charter School in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was informed Joseph struggled maintaining his grades. At 16, Joseph was reading at a fifth-grade level, and it was only a matter of months before he was scheduled to join the workforce.
“When I first got out there, I asked, ‘How were the kids?'” Evans recalled. “They told me they had this kid that needs structure and we think you’re perfect for him.”
“The school hired me for this kid specifically,” he said in reference to Joseph. “He was tall. I’m used to seeing guys like Nadab, about 6-foot-2 and 140 pounds of all bone. We started doing drills to put weight on him, but he had no football experience at all. … His grades, it was hard for his mom. She’s a foster parent with other kids and he was placed in a public school setting. It was too fast-paced.”
Joseph’s grades were a red flag, but his off-the-field activities were equally as alarming to Evans.
Despite what Evans saw — a young, shy, potential-laden 16-year-old — Joseph was hanging out with a crowd that, by default, would lead him in another direction.
As a native of the area, Evans had seen this script play out.
“This is what happened at New Generation High. He’s just turning 16 and hanging out with the wrong crowd,” he said. “This kid doesn’t need to be with them. I knew what type of kids they were. I was trying to help them, too, but he isn’t like them. He just wasn’t one of those kids.”
Evans’ next move was the catalyst.
He raced back to his house to propose an idea to his wife. Of course, he provided context of Joseph’s situation and after gaining her approval, approached Ms. Theresa and Joseph with his plan.
Finally, Joseph was about to be on a new path.
“When I first met him, he was a quiet kid,” Evans said. “I was just looking at him and I knew there was a part of him that he wasn’t letting out. I sat with him and talked with him and found out what was going on and how it was inside of his house. I talked with his mom and saw where his life was headed the previous two years.
“I came in and said, ‘I can be that guy.’ I’m not trying to be his father, but a man who can provide him with some guidance.”
The engineer, the second dad and learning to walk
One of Evans’ first orders of business was transferring Joseph to a private school setting, where Joseph could get the 1-on-1 attention he desperately craved.
That style of learning immediately paid dividends, leading Evans to take care of other aspects.
First was football. Evans accepted the defensive coordinator position at Miami Edison and arranged that Joseph could play for the team. The second part was giving him a true home to come home to Mondays through Fridays, which helped sort out his grades and make football his top after-school priority.
“We put him in a private school setting, which was working out much better because he got the 1-on-1 attention he needed,” Evans explained. “It’s not a big classroom and they’re not moving along until he gets it. It’s working out perfectly for him. It’s easy to help him because he isn’t shy to talk about anything.”
Part of that 180-degree turn is the emphasis on classroom inside the Evans household.
There are definitely perks of living with your football coach. For instance, Coach Vick is a big dancer. If you watch carefully, you can catch him Whip, which is always amusing for Joseph. There also is a more stringent side, which Joseph has come to appreciate in another sort of way.
“He’s right there with me all the time,” Joseph said of Evans. “He’ll make sure I’m on the laptop working. He’ll shut things down or tell me I can’t go (places) because I need to do this. He’s always on top of me, and I like it because I need it.
“It’s more than just football, though. He’s like my second dad. I never grew up with my dad, so he’s that father figure in my life. He teaches me more responsibilities, to get me ready for that level I need to be in college. He tells me I have to cut out things. I don’t do it automatically, but if I apply it over the time, and everything is good. It makes me feel good. Normally, people won’t be on me like he is. He’s always on my case and, sometimes I get annoyed, but it is what it is.”
Joseph’s growth in the classroom and on the football field has been strong. He’s passing all of his classes and has emerged as one of the top prospects in Florida and in the country.
This has come in a two-year span, which is all the more impressive for Evans, who saw this inside of a skinny 16-year-old.
“He’s up to his class now. His math has always been good and he has a special talent in drawing because he wants to be in engineering. What I always tell him is to use school and use your talents to take you places,” Evans said. “In his third year, he finally started learning the game. It was a challenge, but he adapted to it. The way it’s going for him, Nadab is just as talented as he was two years ago, but it was the process. It’s like getting someone who has been crawling for 10 years to get up and walk.”
The path to LSU
Joseph spends five days a week with coach Vick and Saturdays and Sundays with his foster mother, Ms. Theresa.
Both have represented home to the 4-star safety, which has provided him with an uncanny level of comfort in just a matter of two years.
“It’s cool. I’m here and I’m there. If I have a problem here, I can go there, but I barely have that problem,” Joseph said. “It’s fun. I watch TV, they feed me. We wash cars, eat and they take me places like the movies and all that.”
In addition to a second dad, Joseph has added a second mom and even a second set of siblings in Evans’ 6-, 11- and 14-year-old children.
As beneficial as it has been for Joseph, watching him progress as rapidly and successfully as he has is what continues to take away Evans’ breath.
“I’m very proud because I was there to see the whole process,” he said. “After ninth grade when he finally came down with me, my wife got to meet him when he was behind. To see him catch up, she’s amazed and she’s happy because he’s with us and a part of our family now. The kids love him and for my son, he’s the big brother he never had. It came out perfect.”
Joseph has made Evans proud in more ways than one.
Sure, Joseph recently wrapped up painting the inside of the kitchen — a job well-done, according to Evans — but the uptick in his recruitment has been a rewarding path, too.
Joseph’s first-ever prospect camp appearance was at LSU in June, where he added his fourth and biggest offer to date from the Tigers. He committed within 48 hours, a decision he turned to Evans to before making.
“We looked at each other when I got the offer and I said that I really liked it,” Joseph remembered. “He told me, ‘It’s a very good place for you,’ and asked if I was ready to commit.”
Joseph did, becoming the third member of LSU recruiting’s star-studded 2018 class and the latest Florida standout defensive back to commit to LSU. He joins predecessors such as Patrick Peterson, John Battle, Kevin Toliver II and Saivion Smith.
Of course, Evans reminds Joseph a scholarship to LSU is a stepping stone toward achieving even more.
That includes his future in football, in engineering and fulfilling the promise that Evans noticed in 2014. The strides Joseph has made in that short period have carved out an even greater path for his future.
“I’m just glad to see that he bought in,” Evans said. “That’s the easy part. It’s not just football; it’s using football. He wanted to do it, but never had the person to help him get there.”
Joseph is almost there.
To his dismay, Miami Edison came up short against Booker T. Washington in a battle for a district championship, but Joseph and his teammates will have a chance to make a run in the playoffs and see their archrivals again.
The silver lining is the opportunities Joseph has had during the past two years and the ones he already has capitalized on during the last six months — fortunes never before deemed possible before he moved under Evans’ roof.
“He tells me all the time that he wouldn’t be playing football,” Evans said. “Without this, instead of vying to be district champs, he says his mom was at the point where he was going to be the man of the house, to get ready for him to get a job and start living. But Ms. Theresa took a chance with him. She trusted me, and she thanks me all the time for it.”
All ratings are from the 247Sports composite rankings unless otherwise noted.
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