Small towns tend to affect people differently. Some cannot wait to leave to find a new way of life, never to look back again. Others depend on that way of life and become crippled by it, causing them to stay forever.
Trevante Rhodes chose a middle ground.
“Living in such a small town really helped me treasure family,” Rhodes said. “I didn’t really spend that much time with other people. I am really influenced by the people I’m with and I was usually with my family, who are great people.”
Rhodes, a junior sprinter for the Longhorns, grew up in Ponchatoula, La., a tiny town with a population of little more than 6,000 that lies 45 minutes north of New Orleans.
His family, a lot like him, is known for their optimism.
“I feel like they have helped me become who I am now,” Rhodes said. “They are bunch of happy-go-lucky people. They don’t have a care in the world other than just trying to see everyone happy and successful.”
This state of mind forms and secures strong bonds, yet does not always protect one from obstacles in life that test the very strength of those family ties.
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina stormed through the Gulf of Mexico and ripped through the heart of Louisiana, changing the lives of its citizens forever.
Rhodes, a freshman in high school at the time, had his and his family’s emotional and psychological strength tested during the disaster.
“I had a couple of family members affected by that,” Rhodes said. “We actually had to go find one of my cousins at the Superdome. It was devastating knowing that my family was in that position, but we found a way to make it work. Luckily, there were no deaths.”
Through this experience, Rhodes learned some important lessons.
“I learned to treasure family, man,” Rhodes said. “Live everyday to the fullest and anything that you do, give it your all because you never know when it can be taken away from you.”
That wasn’t all life had in store for the young athlete. Rhodes stumbled over a new obstacle his senior year of high school. He tore his ACL, suffering the one injury every athlete has nightmares about.
“I was a football cat,” Rhodes said. “I was going to go play cornerback at OU and then that happened. Everyone who was looking at me immediately dropped me after that. It was a reality check.”
Oklahoma released Rhodes from his commitment, but Rhodes attacked this impediment with a full-steam optimism.
“I thought I was top-notch,” Rhodes said. “It was a very humbling experience. Everything happens for a reason and I feel like I was getting too bigheaded. I needed it.”
By 18, Rhodes had suffered two nearly unimaginable tragedies, but his toughness both physically and mentally saw
After his plans at Oklahoma fell through, Rhodes came to Texas to run. Things were finally looking up for Rhodes, but not even one year into his college career, tragedy struck once again. He received news that his grandma died.
“Everything seemed so bad,” Rhodes said. “First my ACL and now this. She raised me. I had gotten really close to her throughout my life and it was really devastating. I still haven’t really coped with that.”
After misfortune that seemed never-ending, Rhodes has found ways to stay positive throughout. Selflessness remains one outlet. Rhodes has volunteered for the Special Olympics and other community service endeavors.
“It’s always good to give back,” Rhodes said. “Especially with the Special Olympics, when you see other guys with disabilities going out and loving the same thing you do and seeing their faces, [there is] no feeling like that.”
In a life of unexpected twists and turns, Rhodes shines despite tragedy. When asked what his next step was, he laughed.
“That’s a great question,” he said. “I really don’t know. Wherever God takes me.”