Raider Jon Feliciano's remarkable journey to Sundays

From ESPN - October 13, 2017

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Jon Feliciano spent nights in a condemned mobile home. No heat, no running water, no electricity.

Now he's playing professionally as an adaptable lineman for the Oakland Raiders. His inspirational tale includes a supporting cast and support system to match or beat any sports movie.

Jon, now 25, is the lead, obviously.

His mom, Alicia, is a two-time cancer survivor.

His younger brother Chris is deaf -- and Jon's inspiration.

A daughter, Shawn Cole Feliciano, born in May to Jon and his wife Shannon, has added to Feliciano's family, which is of Puerto Rican and Sicilian ancestry.

Family does not stop there. Family is not just people related by blood. Feliciano, a third-year player, wants his daughter and others to understand about the bond created when someone has another person's back whenever it's needed. To know a joke and a smile helps someone who is hurting.

He wants Shawn Cole Felciano, his daughter, to know about Sean Cole, his dear friend.

'The New Kid'

Feliciano also hopes his story, in its entirety, may help a child in a situation like the one he once found himself.

A gangly Feliciano, who had yet to fully grow into the 6-foot-4, 325-pound player he is today, moved to Davie, Florida, when he was 10, not long after his parents divorced. He played basketball, not football -- except for video games of the sport.

"He was the new kid," recalled childhood friend Josh Palmer, who, like Sean Cole and Feliciano, lived in the King's Manor Trailer Park in Davie.

"I did a good job of staying away from the bad stuff in my life, realizing that it was not the norm. My friends helped me to get to that point."

Jon Feliciano

Cole met Feliciano when he shared his Nintendo Gameboy with Feliciano. Along with Palmer, they formed a buddy trio, playing outdoors on the hardcourt and inside with their video games. Feliciano was already big for his age but kept growing when Cole and Palmer dubbed him "Mongo," short for "humongous," never dreaming the nickname would stick all the way to the NFL.

"When he was young, he was super-clumsy," Palmer said, but recalled Feliciano's friendliness as unchanged. "He's such a good guy."

Before his freshman year, Feliciano attended an open tryout for the Western High School football team, though he needed a friend to help him with some basics.

"When I got there, they gave me a helmet and pads," Feliciano said. "I did not know how to put on the pads."

'He would beat me up'

His wanting to play football was not merely to earn popularity. Football players on television, whether professionally or in college, projected a strength, a toughness -- a charisma. Young Feliciano wanted to be stronger, so he would not feel helpless.

Yes, helpless. A young man who would later play on an NFL offensive line would often feel helpless around his brother, Rafael, older than Jon by three years.

"He would beat me up," Feliciano said. "That was one of the reasons I started playing football. I wanted to work out so that I could fight back. He was violent."

Even after years passed with little to no contact with his older brother, it's not easy for Feliciano retell the circumstances.

"I have never been vocal about [it]," he said, explaining that, given his culture and upbringing, he felt an obligation to keep silent.

"I wanted to be the guy to bring my family together and not tell the dark secrets of my family."

He is no longer maintaining a cultural tradition of suppression. He wants others to know they are not alone.

"I feel like now is the time that I can help some kids who might be going through something similar."

Feliciano said he will never forget one night in particular. His brother turned 18 only a few months after Feliciano first struggled to pull on football pads. According to Jon, Feliciano's mother, Alicia, took his brother out to celebrate with friends. Both returned home intoxicated.

"I heard them yelling, screaming, arguing with each other," Feliciano said, remembering how he'd locked himself in his room. "Mom was banging on my door, trying to get me to open it, screaming, 'He hit me.' I opened the door [to let her in] and I blocked the door."

Things escalated, Feliciano recalled, as his mother called her own parents while her oldest son battered the door.

"He eventually broke the door in on me and started trying to hit her again," Feliciano said. "I was between [them], trying to break it up. My mom was yelling. I was crying."

Neighbors called the police, who came and took Feliciano's brother to jail. Police records confirm Rafael Feliciano's arrest for battery on the evening of Oct. 28, 2007.

After a sleepless night spent trying to comfort his distraught mother, Feliciano took comfort in his younger brother Chris' absence (he was in New York, with their father) for the entire ordeal. But Feliciano looks back now with regret at another aspect of the incident.

"I went to school a few days after and they pulled me into the office," Feliciano said.

Police were waiting to see him. According to Feliciano, his mother had coached him on what to say if he was questioned. Family loyalty was ingrained in him.

The moment of truth arrived.

"The cop asked me, 'Do you feel safe with your brother in the house?'" Feliciano described. "I looked at my mom and said, 'Yes.'"

Broward County Court records indicate Feliciano's brother entered a plea of "not guilty" at his arraignment. In April 2008, prosecutors declined to pursue the case. Though Feliciano remembers other incidents when his brother was physically aggressive, none escalated to the point of police involvement.

'You can do this'

'It's like a dream'

Raiders' Offensive Line coach Mike Tice, on Jon Feliciano


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