Titcus grew up in public housing in Winston-Salem. When he was 11 years old he met met Dan Scannell through an IBM program called Big Blue’s Adopt-A-School. The relationship was fragile at first. Titcus had a hard time listening to any man who wasn’t his father, who left when Titcus was two. But Dan was consistent, meeting with Titcus almost every day to play basketball, to meet with teachers, to be an advocate for him and to call him out when he was being “difficult.”
Dan asked Titcus what he wanted to do with his life. Titcus didn’t know how to answer at first. Dan asked again, “If you could do anything in this life, anything, what would it be?” Titcus said he wanted to play both professional basketball and professional football. It was a lofty ambition. Dan helped him set goals, stressed to Titcus that he had to work, not only on the court, and on the field, but in the classroom too. “You can’t be on a team if you don’t have the grades.”
“It was hard,” said Titcus. Dan would pick him up and take him into what Titcus calls “the light” and then drop him back off into the darkness, a world of dealers and gangs. Titcus said there’s no sense in showing someone a better life if you don’t let them know they can have it for themselves. Dan showed him he could indeed have it if he worked hard and remained true to his dreams. Dan reminded him constantly. That’s what mentors do.
There was a time when Dan didn’t drop him off and instead got out of the car to play basketball with the neighborhood boys. “It was risky,” said Titcus. But it worked. Things changed after that. He knew Dan wasn’t some guy coming to do his duties to the IBM program. He knew Dan was there to stay.
In high school, Titcus graced the cover of USA TODAY as the wide receiver of the year. After graduation, Titcus went on to play both basketball and football for Penn State. Then he played safety for the San Diego Chargers.
Dan and Titcus called each other often. Titcus was a groomsman in Dan’s wedding. Dan returned the favor when Titcus married. That’s what friends do.
Titcus Pettigrew now lives in Lisle, Illinois, with wife Bonnie and their three children. They own a business together called Next Level Athletes that trains over 600 hundred kids a year to excel at—sports, basketball, football, volleyball, soccer. More importantly, Titcus says, he lets kids know they can have their dreams. He shows him how hard work can make them better athletes, and make them better people. He learned that from Dan.
Dan Scannell is now Managing Director for Oppenheimer & Co. in Asheville.
Titcus Pettigrew and Dan Scannell will tell their story at the OpenDoors Benefit and Art Auction event on Feb. 20, 2010 at the YMI Cultural Center.