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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Ximines credits mother for his success on and off the field

By Harry Minium

Oshane Ximines slung a blocker aside, avoided another trying to grab him, then sprinted 20 yards across the field to catch a Liberty running back from behind. It was a typical Ximines play, made with passion, heart and hustle.

"He's one of the hardest-working players I've ever coached," Old Dominion football coach Bobby Wilder said of his senior defensive end.

You need look no further than his right arm to see where that work ethic comes from. "Family is where life begins and love never ends," reads a tattoo.

"It all comes from my mom," he said of Dane McDonald. "She ignited in me the desire to work hard."

McDonald, who emigrated from Jamaica as a child, is an American success story. Some parents tell their kids to work. She showed hers that hard work can transform your life.

As a single mother she moved from New York to Ahoskie, N.C., in search of a better life.

Two days after that move, she enrolled at Roanoke-Chowan Community College. Each weekday she attended classes from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m., came home and hurriedly cooked dinner, then went to her job at a nursing home. She often came home after midnight and would study for several hours.

Her family lived in a rundown, two-bedroom home where Ximines shared the second bedroom with his three sisters. His father lived in New York, so Ximines became the father figure to Natasha, Siane and Mikalah. Ximines has a tat across his chest that says he's his sisters' keeper.

McDonald said her work ethic came from her mom.

"The culture in Jamaica is much different than here," she said. "There's more discipline. You have to work hard for whatever you have. I let my kids know early on that I'm not their friend, I'm their mother.

"We were poor in Jamaica, so I know what it is to do without. I knew I didn't want my kids to have the same life I had as growing up, so I went back to school."

McDonald got her nursing degree after four long, hard years. The family moved into a better home, and McDonald has since purchased a house in Suffolk.

"I saw first-hand someone who came from nothing, who worked all day and stayed up late at night studying," Ximines said. "And now she's a homeowner.

"My mom is really something special."

So is Ximines, who transformed himself from a skinny, 6-foot-4 raw freshman into a redshirt senior likely to become the first Old Dominion player drafted by the National Football League. He's gone from 212 pounds at his first weigh-in as a freshman to 255, and his bulging biceps tell you every ounce is muscle.

Ximines has also applied his work ethic to the classroom. He has a 3.4 grade-point average in finance and hopes, after an NFL career, to invest his money and become rich.

Don't bet against him. He's shrewd. He could have graduated this summer and begun a master's degree program this fall. "In the end, I didn't think it would be a good idea to start work on a master's degree when I don't know yet what I want to do in life," he said.

So he finished this summer one class short of a degree. He's taking an introduction to Spanish class online.

"The NCAA lets you take just one class if that's all you need to graduate," he said.

Ximines didn't begin playing football until the ninth grade. His mom laughs when she talks about how sore he was after the first day of practice.

"He said, 'Ma, you know what, I'm think I'm going to stay in school and just do academics. I don't think I want to play football,'" she said. "I guess somebody hit him real hard."

Her message to him was unsympathetic.

"You can't just give up like that," she said. "Things aren't always going to go well. If things don't go well, you have to get up, brush yourself off and keep working."

Work he did. He was on the varsity as a 10th grader. As a senior he was a consensus two-star recruit. All the ACC schools in North Carolina recruited him. But in the end they said he was "too stiff, too slow or too skinny," Ximines said.

Recruited by ODU assistant coach Ron Whitcomb, Ximines verbally committed to the Monarchs over nearby East Carolina. But he briefly wavered when Marshall, then a nationally ranked program, made a last-minute scholarship offer.

"Old Dominion was home," he said. "Old Dominion was the first school to recruit me and they never backed off of me. That was something I didn't forget."

"Everyone wants to go to a Power 5 school. But sometimes, going to a school like Old Dominion is better for you. Here, I got to develop. The coaches focused on me, and really pushed me. I'm not sure that would have happened anywhere else."

"I'm so happy he's at Old Dominion," said his mom, who admits that she doesn't really understand football. "He's really thrived there."

Ximines said he's proud of helping ODU move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision and playing on the school's first bowl championship team in 2016.

"Coming to ODU was the best decision I ever made," he said,

Nonetheless, he wondered for a time if NFL scouts would find him at ODU.

"I told him if you put in the work, they'll find you anywhere," his mom said.

"'God has you right where he wants you to be,' I said. 'If you were supposed to be somewhere else, you would be there.'"

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