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The importance of Saturday’s game, UAB cornerback Devodric Bynum said, is symbolized on the back of the players’ jerseys.

He knows what it feels like. This will be the fourth Children’s Harbor Homecoming game he participates in as a UAB football player. He still keeps in touch with the other children and families he represented.

The two most recent Children’s Harbor games, including Saturday’s against Middle Tennessee, hit a bit different for Bynum.

“Some of us have kids, I have kids,” Bynum said. “My daughter was born four months early, so she had complications as well. It touched me probably more than anyone.”

Bynum’s youngest daughter, Hazel, was born last October. A little less than three weeks later, the Blazers played Rice in the fifth annual Children’s Harbor game. At the time, she was fighting for her life.

“She weighed maybe a pound (at birth),” said Bynum, who also has a 2-year-old son and a 1-year-old daughter. “I held her in one hand. It was amazing to see the fight in her. It kind of touched me mentally, because there was nothing I could do for her. As a father, I try to be a provider and a protector. I never want my children struggling through anything. I always want to be the bruiser and take that away from them.”

On Thursday, Hazel will turn a year old. Bynum said she’s healthy and thriving now.

“She was in an incubator, I would go to the hospital after practice, long days, my faith grew,” said Bynum, who will play with D’Ariya Larry’s name on his jersey this Saturday. “I ended up being baptized, I grew closer to God. It just worked its way out. God makes no mistakes. She definitely made me grind harder and view life a little different. I’m more grateful. Sometimes we tend to be selfish. She’s my motivation, well one of them. Every time we play for Children’s Harbor, I just remember how grateful we are.” For Bynum, it’s just another step in his growth since coming to Birmingham.

The Dallas native grew up in a single parent household with his mother and grandparents.

His neighborhood, Bynum said, swallowed up many of his childhood friends. Some died, others are spending their life in jails or prisons. He chose sports to lead him out.

“Sports helped me get out of my situation, actually it saved my life,” Bynum said. “I saw others fall. It’s my motivation, a lot of my friends didn’t make it. I use that as motivation. If I make it, they’ll feel like they made it, we’re family.”

Bynum signed with Houston as a receiver out of high school. He moved to cornerback, lasting a year before transferring to Northeast Oklahoma A&M. He played free safety in junior college and slid back over to cornerback after arriving at UAB.

“I was a little boy when I was at Houston,” Bynum said. “I graduated early and was down there at the age of 17. I made boneheaded decisions. Just transferring in, coming in under Coach (Bill) Clark, they treated me like family. I was recruited by (former cornerback coach Jay Simpson).  He really was always like a father figure or big brother. He was always staying on me, making sure I was doing the right thing, preparing me to be a man. I didn’t have a father growing up. He just took me in and taught me different things on what to do and what not to do.”

Bynum grew as a player each year he’s been at UAB. He’s played a variety of roles in the secondary and continues to do so.  

On Saturday, he’ll play with a different purpose with one more added motivation.

“My grandmother, she owned a daycare, and she took in all kids, no matter what. She passed away (the day) we played Appalachian State (in the 2019 New Orleans Bowl). This game means a lot more to me because I know how she felt towards kids as well. I know, with the kids, they just want (an) opportunity. It’s not fair always, but that’s how the dice rolls. For me to go out there and be able to perform for them means a lot to me.”

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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