Running Mom’s Option To Perfection

By Kristene Kelly
Updated: October 27, 2007

CHARLOTTE — In 1994, Esther Lofton told her only child that he had three options — get a job, go to college or go to the military. Brett Lofton, now a 30-year-old husband and father of two, recalls that advice during his senior year of high school in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, as being life-altering.

He thoughtfully considered each of the options. The first one — get a job — was easily eliminated. There would be time enough when he was older to work, he decided. It was the second option — go to college — that took more thought.

“I always wanted to go to college,” Brett said. “I took the ACT test in November (1994). But I ruled out college at that time because I was an average student and I did not think I would make the qualifying test score.”

That left his remaining option — the military. With a friend whose older brother was in the United States Marine Corps, Brett visited a recruiter’s office.

“They showed us that they would pay for us to go to college if we signed up. They showed us the pay stubs of what soldiers made. It seemed interesting but I needed to talk with my mother,” he said.

Brett looked to his mother for counsel in all things. And like every good offensive coordinator, Esther Lofton could be counted on for advice and direction.

On December 16, 1994, 17-year-old Brett was sworn in to the U.S. Marine Corps. During nearly eight years in the Marine Corps, he lived in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and then New Orleans. During a six-month deployment on a naval ship, he traveled to Albania, Africa, Greece, Italy and Spain.

He quickly adjusted to his new life. “The military taught me to be adaptive. Anything I put my mind to, I can do. I was fortunate that my mother taught me some of the simple tasks like washing clothes, cooking and making my bed at an early age. Those skills really helped me while in boot camp.”

Stationed at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, Brett began taking college classes through a satellite campus of Northwood University, earning an associate of arts degree in management information systems. “Going to college was important to me. Once I arrived at Camp Lejeune, I wanted to take classes. I got there in February and began taking classes the very next term which was October.”

While at Camp Lejeune, Brett met Amy, the young woman he would eventually marry in 2001. Today they are the parents of two sons, 5-year-old L.J. and 1-month-old Bryce. Preparing for life after the Marine Corps, Brett and Amy chose to live in Charlotte, North Carolina, a location that put each of them within five hours of their hometowns.

As a newcomer to Charlotte in 2005, Brett began playing flag football with some alumni of Johnson C. Smith University, who encouraged him to add his considerable skills to the Golden Bulls roster. Brett met with the coaches and soon became a full-time Johnson C. Smith University student and member of the football team. He has worked his way from walk-on to scholarship player.

This football senior has done many things in his 30 years (he celebrated his 30th birthday August 25). He is the first student-athlete in JCSU history to graduate and return to pursue a second degree while participating on an intercollegiate team. Brett received his undergraduate degree in liberal arts in 2007, and did so with honors. He graduated with a 3.43 grade point average and a perfect 4.0 in the spring semester of his senior year.

Not what one would expect from someone who considers himself an “average student.”

Brett’s schedule looks something like this: Work from 4 a.m. to noon. Classes from 1 to 4 p.m. Practice from 4 to 6 p.m. Dinner with the team from 6 to 7 p.m. Team meeting from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Sleep, study and spend time with his family from 9:30 to 11:30 p.m.

Why does he do it? “I want my sons to have the best future possible without any limitations. I want them to have a better life than I had.”

As he embarks on his final season in a Golden Bull football uniform, like his teammates, he wants to win a championship. “Hard work pays off,” Brett said. “I didn’t want to be a statistic. I set goals for myself and established priorities.”

As for that ACT score in 1994, he scored a 19 — good enough to admit him to college and qualify for athletics competition.

“Now that I look back on it, my mother gave me three options, and I guess I chose all three without even knowing it. I give all praise to my mother, God and my family.”