GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- It was less than a month after I'd moved here, in the fall of 1998. I walked toward my apartment and was met near the door by my upstairs neighbor, with whom I had so far exchanged friendly nods, but no words.
My upstairs neighbor,
Music, not very loud, seeped from the college student's rooms.
"Hey," he said with a polite smile, "I hope you don't mind, but I've got a couple people over because it's my 21st birthday. It will be done by 10 o'clock."
I stood there in disbelief for a few seconds, before uttering something like, "Uhh . . . OK . . . Happy birthday, knock yourself out."
My shock came from the surprise that anyone turning 21 would be considerate enough to A) have his birthday party music at such a low volume, and B) politely let his neighbor know that the party would be done early.
Also, if my 6-foot-5, 265-pound neighbor wanted to play his music loud all night long, what was I going to do about it?
As it turned out, the party ended promptly at 10 -- although I barely noticed because I could hardly hear it.
When I turned 21, the party didn't start until 10. And I certainly didn't go out of my way to advise the neighbors -- of anything. Although I'd hate to be accused of age-ism, I think that's the case with most young folks celebrating a milestone birthday. Or any Friday night, for that matter.
When we are young, we think we are indestructible, and many of us do stupid things that years later make us wonder how we survived. Most of us are too busy pushing limits we don't know are there to have much consideration for others we don't know, or barely know.
My neighbor was obviously a freak. Actually, he was The Freak -- Jevon Kearse, then of the Florida Gators, now of the Tennessee Titans.
Of course, Kearse didn't get his nickname from his gentlemanly manners, but because of his condor-like wingspan and ability to run down some of the fastest players in the SEC from behind.
He's doing the same thing as a rookie in the NFL, where nobody seems to be able to block him. Kearse leads Tennessee's defense into Sunday's Super Bowl. Then it's off to the Pro Bowl, and Hawaii football fans will have a chance to see the long arm of The Freak in action live.
The ones who meet him will be fortunate. Kearse is thoughtful, intelligent - and as we've established - considerate. He's the kind of guy you'd want for a friend, and not just because he could get you tickets or you could drop his name.
Jevon Kearse isn't perfect; he got caught up in the agent scandal at Florida last year and has admitted to taking money from Tank Black before turning pro.
When Steve Spurrier banned the Gators involved from campus and anything to do with the program, Kearse took it hard. He has since reached out to Spurrier in an attempt to be un-excommunicated.
Considering Kearse's poor background and the money he helped bring into the university, I'm not sure I blame him for accepting a couple hundred dollars a month from an agent, most of which Kearse said went to his mother. I can certainly forgive him for it.
Or maybe I'm just a sucker for good manners.
Dave Reardon, who covered sports in Hawaii
from 1977 to 1998, is a sportswriter at the
Gainesville Sun. E-mail email@example.com