At the time Larry Foote really didn’t know that his life could be heading down a dangerous path. He was attending Pershing High School in Detroit, Michigan, but school was not a priority. Hanging out on the streets, being with his friends, that was what life was all about.
That was until he met the man that changed things for him, that changed the direction his life was heading. That is when he met the man that would be his mentor, Pastor Joel Gregory, a youth pastor in Southfield, Michigan.
“I met him when I was in high school in the midst of when I was my craziest,” said Foote. “My future wasn’t looking bright. I don’t think college was an option. I was playing sports, but I was in the streets too and following a group of guys I shouldn’t have been and wasn’t taking life seriously.”
Foote had met others before who tried to steer him away from the streets and put his faith in God in an effort to turn things around. But Gregory was different, and Foote immediately connected with him.
“Not only did he preach the word of God that got my attention, but during that time I wasn’t attracted to the church life and doing things the right way, I was doing what the streets were doing,” said Foote. “He was the first guy that was cool that made it attractive. I had never seen anyone that looked like me, talked like me, and had my kind of swag that loved God too. I thought this guy is cool like the neighborhood guys, he is just preaching a different message.”
Foote would attend youth bible study and soon the results started to show. He wasn’t spending time on the streets, he was focusing on school and even teachers noticed a difference in him.
“He saved my life,” said Foote. “It was at a crucial time. I had to get out of the neighborhood. I was gifted, could play ball, but I wasn’t taking life seriously. I was still caught up in the street life. When God got my attention at that age I put my priorities in line just in the nick of time. I started taking school and sports seriously and colleges started calling. My life took off at that point. I started leaving my foolish things alone and my life took off because of the example Pastor Gregory showed me.”
Foote is one of several Steelers who recently shared their story of who his mentor is with the Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania (MPSWPA) in celebration of January being National Mentoring Month. And in his case, his relationship with Gregory is one that was definitely life changing.
“Who knows, with what I was doing I could have been shot at any time,” said Foote. “Even when I go back to the neighborhood today I see guys on the street, on the corner begging for change, hear about guys who were murdered. There are guys I went to school with dead or in jail. It’s the reality. When you are in high school you hear people say that guy is going to end up in jail or dead, but you haven’t lived through it. It’s just rhetoric. But as every year goes by I hear about that happening to someone.
“Pastor Gregory got me in line. I took things seriously with God, and he took care of my stuff and my heart. Pastor Gregory showed me how to act, how to pray. That is why I am where I am today, he showed me that example.”