YORK, Pa. (AP) — About 10 years ago, Khalid Dorsey was supposed to be getting ready for a youth football game. Instead, he was out playing catch with his best friend Demonte Martin.
That’s when this new kid from Lancaster, Dayjure Stewart, walked up wearing a Conestoga Valley jersey. They waved him over to join them.
That’s all it took, three boys and a football.
Since that day, the three boys from York have been close to inseparable.
At the time, they lived on three different streets in the city. In reality, they were like neighbors.
“Thirty steps away,” Dorsey said.
Even as kids, they all had the same dream: They wanted to play NCAA Division I football.
Oh, they had other dreams. They wanted to buy sweet cars, maybe make enough money to help out their mothers. The biggest dream, of course, would be to play football professionally.
Step 1, however, had always been to go Division I.
On Wednesday afternoon, it was to happen.
Khalid Dorsey played as a true freshman at Howard in Washington, D.C., this season. Stewart (Illinois State) and Martin (Robert Morris) were to officially sign their letters of intent on National Signing Day on Wednesday.
“This is a bond that cannot be broken,” Martin said. “We’ve been friends since we were about 8 years old playing on club football teams. We’ve been to each other’s family reunions, family cookouts, family gatherings. They, honestly, are my brothers.”
Stewart lost his brother, Jordan Breeland, about five years ago in a city shooting.
Breeland, 21, was gunned down inside an SUV on Oct. 15, 2013, in York.
“To my understanding, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Stewart said.
He looked to other people to help fill the void, and he leaned heavily on his two friends Dorsey and Martin.
“It made me who I am today,” Stewart said.
It wasn’t just Stewart who felt the loss, however.
“He was like our big brother, too,” Dorsey said.
Stewart was 13 at the time.
“He threw ball with us, he gave us rides ... he was just 21,” Stewart said. “They loved him the way I loved him.”
Martin added: “That was horrible, but it made us closer. We don’t like what happens in our city, but it’s what happened.”
Martin had lost one of his relatives in another murder, when his cousin, Shannon Martin, was killed in York County in 2016. Again, the group of friends rallied around him.
Given the choice to leave the city a couple of years ago, Martin opted to move.
“My dad lived in the Eastern York School District, and my mom didn’t feel comfortable because all the horrible things going on,” Martin said. “She asked if I wanted to move with my dad. I was skeptical, didn’t want to leave friends best thing for me.”
Dorsey said the best part about playing Division I football might be the oddity of returning home and being able to see highlights of himself on television. He also played a game at Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Indianapolis Colts, his favorite NFL team growing up.
He stepped foot in the Colts locker room. He played on the field underneath Peyton Manning’s retired number.
A year older than Martin and Stewart, Dorsey showed it was possible. He had multiple Division I offers to choose from, and Penn State even offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on late in the recruiting process.
He not only earned a scholarship, but Dorsey played for the Washington, D.C., program as a true freshman.
Stewart picked Illinois State, a chance to move away from York and play Division I ball. Meanwhile, Martin opted for Robert Morris and a program located outside Pittsburgh.