As Dolapo Macarthy sits down today for Thanksgiving dinner at his sister Sade's home in Chicago, he'll bow his head in remembrance of his father Benjamin, who recently died at the age of 70.
"He was a great man. He taught me everything I know," Macarthy said. "He was a very strict disciplinarian. He was all about teaching respect and good values. He always instilled in us to know where we came from and carry on our (Nigerian) background wherever we go."
The holiday will be a solemn occasion for the Macarthys, but Dolapo isn't without his reasons to give thanks. The former Merrillville quarterback, whose long, winding journey after high school led him last year to Purdue, is now a scholarship wide receiver with the Boilermakers.
"It really brought happiness and joy to myself and my family," he said. "It's taken a lot of weight off of our shoulders. I don't have to play for a scholarship anymore. Coach (Danny) Hope understood my financial situation. He realized we were in desperate need of financial support. He was worried about me. That's the kind of guy he is. I thank him so much."
Hope called Macarthy on his way home for the funeral late last week to give him the news. It was pure class move by a coach whose future is clouded in doubt. A season of high expectations is winding down with Purdue needing an Old Oaken Bucket win Saturday against Indiana just to get to 6-6, but Macarthy is firmly in line behind his embattled coach.
"He changed my life," Macarthy said. "He's the one who gave me the opportunity. He remembered me from recruiting. He stuck with me. It hasn't worked out the way anybody wanted it to, but no matter what happens, we all want him here."
A dual threat signal-caller with a cannon arm at Merrillville, the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Macarthy moved to receiver during the spring of 2011 at Purdue and redshirted last year. He worked his way into the playing rotation this season and has posted 25 catches for 233 yards and a touchdown, including six grabs in a near-upset of Ohio State.
"I'm definitely still learning the ropes," he said. "I never realized the advantage my size could have. I don't think about being a quarterback much anymore. I've got a long way to go, but I'm really excited to see how much I can improve every day, every week, what the difference is going to be from the spring to next fall."
The Nov. 10 win at Iowa was particularly gratifying for Macarthy, who stayed at school and played that week after learning of his father's death. He verbally committed to play for the Hawkeyes as a high school junior, but the Hawkeyes were no longer interested in him after his stops at Hargrave Academy and Fort Scott Community College.
"It meant a lot to me," he said. "I was pretty emotional. I broke down."
The loss of his father didn't hit Macarthy until he came home. He wishes his dad could have been there in person to share his happiness. Even so, he can picture him standing somewhere, arms crossed, nodding his approval.
"He was there every step of the way, the whole process," Macarthy said. "He stood beside me. When I scored my first touchdown, he told me I could've had two. That's the kind of guy he was."
As he moves forward, Macarthy will never forget his dad's message.
"I'm going to continue to work hard," he said. "Stay grounded. Never settle. Never forget where I came from and what it took to get me here, the little details that are going to get me to the next step. I'm going to stay hungry, on the field, in the weight room, in the film room. He's passing the torch on to me and my brothers, and allowing us to finish the race."
This column represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.