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Proving Them Wrong: A Minn. Teen’s Life

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(credit: CBS) John Lauritsen
John Lauritsen is a reporter from Montevideo, Minn. He joined WCCO-...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Many of us have seen the movie “The Blind Side” — the story of Michael Oher, who went from being homeless to playing in the NFL. An Edina teen has a similar story.

Edina senior Cavonte Johnson is living a dream he never thought possible. There have been no shortcuts to get where then teen is today. And Cavonte says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“If you want to do something in life, you’ll do it,” he said. “If you don’t, don’t make an excuse. I don’t like to make excuses. I’m a competitor. I love proving people wrong.”

Cavonte’s childhood involved moving from one town to the next, jumping from school to school.

“Last time I saw my mom I was 6-years-old,” Cavonte said. “I never met my dad.”

He finally moved to Minneapolis to live with an aunt in fifth grade. He lived with nine others in a two-bedroom house.

And while his aunt loved him, Cavonte couldn’t call her house home.

“We had encounters with a drug-dealing relative who made the environment very bad for us,” he said.

But Cavonte’s aunt knew someone who could help.

In high school, she was tutored by Doug and Sarah Jones of Edina, as part of a program that caters to high-potential but disadvantaged kids.

So when Cavonte was in sixth grade, she decided to introduce them.

“And I believe it was the first white person’s house he had ever stepped inside,” Sarah Jones said. “He was very uncomfortable, ill-at-ease, and laid down on a couch and didn’t talk to us.”

But it wasn’t long before Cavonte started to warm up to the Joneses.

Sarah began doing school work with Cavonte, and she soon discovered he was a math whiz. But while he was efficient with numbers, Cavonte had trouble with words.

So Sarah read with Cavonte.

“We had to work on reading, writing, spelling,” she said. “He and I read novels out loud together.”

At about that time, Cavonte’s living situation took a turn for the worst.

He returned to his aunt’s house after a weekend basketball tournament to discover an abusive relative had destroyed most of his things.

“When I came back all my trophies were broken, my bed was out the window…I didn’t know what to do.”

Cavonte decided he couldn’t stay there, so he called Sarah Jones.

Not long after, the Joneses picked Cavonte up and made a room for him that day.

Five years later, they wouldn’t have it any other way. Since coming to Edina, Cavonte has been on the A-Honor Roll and become a three-sports star, lettering in football, basketball and track.

He won state in the 4×1 as a sophomore and has been an all-conference honorable mention in football.

Despite a knee injury that sidelined him for most of his senior season, Gopher coach Jerry Kill has encouraged him to walk-on at the University of Minnesota.

That’s something Cavonte’s football coach, Reed Boltmann, says no doubt will happen.

“I’ve worked with a lot of kids during my 25 years of teaching and coaching. He’s one of the guys I will remember,” Boltmann said.

Cavonte’s experience may not be totally like “The Blind Side” — he pointed out that he doesn’t weigh 300 pounds, like Oher — but Cavonte’s story may be just as big.

And his future is bright.

“He’s part of our family, and I love him like I love our own sons,” Sarah said. “He’s with us forever. And I think he can go a number of different directions in his future.”

Cavonte said his dream is to play for the Gophers, and if that happens he’d like to wear number 23. That’s how old he’ll be when his mom gets out of prison and he can see her again.

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