GARDENA (News4usonline) – If the Compton Centennial High School football program had enough helmets and equipment to go around when Millyon Colquitt came out for the football team back in 2019, it might have been enough of an activity-related refuge to save his life.
As it was, Centennial head football coach Glenn Gates said when Colquitt tried out for the football team the program had just about run out of equipment to be distributed among the players. As such, after a few weeks of participating in team drills without pads, Colquitt decided to move on.
“He was a good athlete, good basketball player,” Gates said just before his Centennial Apaches were set to play Gardena High School on Sept. 2. “A good athlete, a guy that can move, can run. We definitely could have used him, but he had come out a little too late and all the other kids had pads.”
Gates continued, “By the time he came out, we didn’t have enough for him. He waited like it was a couple of weeks. He had been coming out every day, just running around and doing our stuff…He was active. He wasn’t going to sit. That’s what we liked about him. He wasn’t a kid to sit and watch. He liked to be in the action.”
A year later, the 16-year-old Colquitt was gone. On Oct. 15, 2020, Colquitt, along with his cousin, Jamele Hill, a 17-year-old football star at Gardena High School, were fatally shot in an unincorporated part of the Willowbrook area in Compton. The Board of Supervisors of the County of Los Angeles issued a $10,000 reward in the twin killings of Colquitt and Hill.
With both Centennial High and Gardena High paying tribute to the fallen student-athletes before their season-opening matchup in the city of Gardena, Gates wondered aloud what might have been different if his program had been able to suit up Colquitt.
“Sad story with Millyon Colquitt getting shot and killed in his own car,” Gates said. “He actually came out for the football team and we didn’t have enough gear for him, just didn’t have the numbers. The helmets were too big and the pads were too large. He couldn’t fit. So, we were trying to get him some pads and he just kind of flamed out.
“He was out there for a minute and then he kind of quit,” Gates added. “He just didn’t have enough pads for him. It wasn’t just him. It was a couple of other kids, too. Tragically, a year later, we felt like if he was in our program, then we could have guided him and we wouldn’t have had [what] happened. It’s a tragic situation.”
Birthed out of this tragedy has been a truckload of goodwill forwarded by complete strangers. The Los Angeles Chargers and Xenith partnered up to lend a hand to both football programs, inviting the two teams to a training camp practice and donating a combined 150 Xenith X2E+ helmets to the respective schools.
“Last year was extremely difficult for student-athletes who either had their extracurricular programs shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic or weren’t able to raise funds for their programs,” said Chargers Director of Community Partnerships Heather Birdsall. “The Chargers strongly believe that youth sports play a critical role in teaching important life skills like teamwork and leadership, creating safe spaces for many of our local youth, and bringing communities together. We can’t thank Xenith enough for partnering with us to donate these helmets to Gardena and Compton Centennial High Schools to help ensure local youth have every opportunity to play the sport they love and more importantly keep them out of harm’s way.”
Xenith CEO Ryan Sullivan said the company is happy to partner with the Chargers for a good cause.
“At Xenith, we understand the important role football can play in building a community and helping athletes heal during difficult times,” said Sullivan. “The players at Gardena and Compton Centennial High Schools have faced tremendous adversity over the past year and we are honored to partner with the Los Angeles Chargers in giving back to these programs.”
Gardena High head coach Monty Gilbreath wasn’t around when Hill was slain in 2019. He didn’t know Hill. He had never met the heralded star. But in attending Hill’s memorial service, he did feel the hurt and pain of Hill’s teammates and the community at such an unfathomable loss of a young life.
“It was a tragic situation,” Gilbreath said. “The positive I would think was the generosity by the community, and the support by the community that manifested itself at the school. But anytime a young man is shot down at such a young age, it’s tragic. From that standpoint, it was definitely a negative situation. I remember being at the memorial service…a lot of tears by a lot of the kids. It was just tough. It was tough being there.”
The donation of helmets by Xenith and the Chargers has been a healing balm for those left behind and for the program, Gilbreath said.
“The donation was what I consider to be overwhelming generosity,” remarked Gilbreath. “Our kids really got excited when we showed them the helmets. Being here in the inner-city, that doesn’t happen very often. So when the Chargers decided to donate, the kids got excited. The coaches got excited. Even the school got excited. Just overwhelming generosity, and we appreciate it.”
Gates said the 75 helmets his team received is a big deal.
“It’s super-duper huge,” Gates said. “We were without sizes. Helmets were too big, helmets were too small. The Chargers came through and everyone’s [helmet] fit. It really helped us a lot.”
Gates and Centennial prevailed against Gardena with a 20-18 win. But the thought of Colquitt losing his life at such a young age to gun violence is something that’s not easy to forget, Gates said.
“It’s tough,” said Gates. “You have it in the back of your mind all the time. So when you see a new kid come, you say, ‘Don’t let him get away.’ And when they’re not there, I’m calling parents. I’m calling friends. I’m on the streets. I’ll go to a kid’s house.”
Featured Image Caption: Members of the Gardena High School and Compton Centennial High School football programs attend a Los Angeles Chargers training camp practice on Aug. 4, 2021. The Chargers, along with Xenith, donated helmets to both high schools. Photo credit: Los Angeles Chargers
I write about sports, racial and social justice, culture, and everything else in between. Beat writer for the Rams, Chargers, Lakers, and Clippers. Part of the inaugural Associated Press Sports Editors Diversity Fellowship class. Howard University alum.