Sometimes, we throw the term around too liberally in the sports vernacular, glorifying athletes for feats in their venue of play.
Chesterton football player Avery Beeks is a hero, and it has nothing to do with anything that's happened on the field.
The instinctive actions of the Trojans sophomore wing back foiled a robbery attempt at Vision Quest, 521 Broadway in Gary, where his mother, Esperanza Vazquez, is a manager.
"She's sacrificed so much for me, my brother and sister, I felt I had to do something for her," Beeks said Wednesday morning. "I couldn't lose this woman. If the situation happened again, I'd do it again for my mom."
Beeks, 16, was at work with his mom around 9:50 prior to a doctor's appointment. An African-American man, whom Beeks described as being in his late 20s, about his height (5-foot-7) and weighing around 220 pounds, walked in with a bag and a weapon. According to the Gary Police Department report, he pointed the weapon at them and demanded they fill the bag with designer eye wear.
"The whole time, I was just trying to protect my mom so nothing would happen to either one of us," Beeks said. "We didn't want to try to make him mad or pull the trigger."
As the man was leading Beeks and Vazquez toward the back of the building, Beeks said he moved the weapon from Vazquez's back to her head.
"It made me mad because we cooperated, we did everything he said," Beeks said. "He took his eye off me and that's when I knew I had to do something."
Beeks lunged at the man, knocking him into a counter. A struggle ensued in which Beeks and Vazquez both tried to get the weapon away. Beeks was struck in the head with the weapon, but eventually was able to wrest it from the grasp of the man, who took off running east down the alley without any cash or merchandise. Police determined that the weapon was actually a toy.
"It was just adrenaline," Beeks said. "I didn't know what to do, but I knew I had to do something. I'm just happy we're still alive right now and I saved me and my mom."
Beeks returned to school Wednesday. He was going to stay home, but had to take a test.
"I think it's going to stay with me for a while," he said. "I wasn't able to sleep (Tuesday) night. We're still shaken up about what happened."
Vazquez has been a single mom since Avery was in third grade. His father is in jail. She moved to Chesterton with the children three years ago, but continued to work at the Vision Quest, where she has been employed for over 10 years.
"I worry about her sometimes, working by herself, especially this time of year, when it gets dark early and she doesn't get out until 5," Beeks said. "If I hadn't been there, I don't know what would've happened. I was supposed to be in school. I just feel really lucky."
Chesterton plays at Merrillville on Friday in a Class 5A Sectional 1 semifinal. Even if his head does check out OK, Beeks wasn't sure whether he would play or not.
"I still want to play, but it's the last thing on my mind right now," he said. "I've got a lot of stuff on my mind. It's hard to think about Friday, preparing myself for a game."
This column represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.