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Minnesota West: Big man, big heart, big impact

CALEB NELSON/DAILY GLOBE Tawan Downs, left, from Detroit, has made it a point to be involved in Worthington, volunteering for several local organizations. His Y-Pal, at right, is Trequan, a sixth-grader at Worthington Middle School.

A sophomore business and accounting major at Minnesota West, Downs stands at 6-foot-3, 288 pounds. He played for the Bluejays football team this fall but has arguably become more well-known for his involvement in the community over the past year and for how he cares so much for others.

“I’m so blessed to be able to help so many people. I received football offers from several different schools,” Downs said. “I came to Minnesota West and, out of all the places I looked at, they were the only one that had all of these programs I could get involved in.”

Downs comes from a rough neighborhood in Detroit; he never knew his father and had a rough home life. Through it all, others never gave up on Downs. Whether it was in struggling with grades or finding his identity as a young man, there were always people laid along Downs’ path that encouraged him along the way.

Downs credits several people, along with his mother, for the progress he has made in life as he excelled at graduating from Detroit’s Pershing High School and has moved through two colleges. Downs’ grades in high school were also good enough to earn him an installation into the National Honor Society.  

The people along his path who have helped Downs drive the reasons why he yearns so much to give back.

“I didn’t really have anybody early in life to be there. Not knowing my dad, everything that a father is supposed to teach his son I learned through the grace of God,” Downs said. “I didn’t have that father figure early in life to support me, teach me and give me that fatherly love that every son needs.

“My mom did that for me and fulfilled both roles,” Downs said. “My mom and I have been through our ups and downs but she has always been there for me.”

Downs has always enjoyed football and, when he was young, he used the sport as a way to work through aggression and other battles life presented. Downs was good enough to play two seasons ago at the University of Michigan-Flint. Upon the elimination of their football program, Downs made the move to Worthington. He has not gone unnoticed in the Bluejays’ program.

“You can’t say enough about Tawan. We’re talking about a kid who not only does what he needs to do for the football program but he does it out in the community,” Minnesota West football coach Jeff Linder said. “I’ve been doing this a long time. Some individuals have done community service type things in the past, but Tawan has certainly embraced the community and made himself a part of the community with some of the organizations that need help.”

Downs started at center a year ago for the Bluejays and played this season at right guard before he suffered a season ending injury. He has become heavily involved in volunteerism through several organizations. One is the Y-Pals program at the Worthington Area YMCA.

Downs has become attached to his Y-Pal, Trequan Wright. Wright, a sixth-grader, frequently spends time with Downs. They do various activities around the YMCA and throughout the community. They also goof around a lot. Downs has even led Wright to become involved in some of his volunteerism when appropriate.

“He’s like a big brother, he is not a good swimmer and was scared of the slide when I first met him,” Wright teased of Downs. “I call him big foot and we tease each other a lot. He has gotten me into a lot of programs and teaches me a lot of things. He taught me how to dive and has helped me conquer my fears.”

For Greg Wede, coordinator of the Y-Pals program, Downs has been one of many faithful volunteers, but is exceptional in how he goes about impacting lives.

“Tawan has a strong sense of social responsibility and I’ve enjoyed getting to know him,” Wede said. “He has a very sensitive spirit and wants his life to stand for something. To that end, he has gotten involved.”

Much to the sadness of those he knows in the area, Downs will move on from Worthington this December. He hopes to keep up his strength and play football somewhere, all while continuing to pour into lives in a positive manner wherever he goes.

“I’m looking to continue to do the same things I did in Flint and Worthington wherever I go next,” Downs said. “I know the Lord isn’t finished with me yet and has more things for me to do.”

Caleb Nelson
Caleb Nelson is the Daily Globe sports writer. He hails from southwest Iowa and served as sports editor at the Audubon County Advocate Journal there for 2 ½ years before moving to Worthington in October 2013. Caleb trys to enjoy life and everybody that he meets. He enjoys music, playing guitar and drums, and is an avid sports fan. 
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