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A lot of things went through the mind of McTelvin “Sosa” Agim on April 24 when he received a call from John Elway, the latest event to change his life forever.
The Denver Broncos had just drafted Agim in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft and Hall of Famer John Elway, the Broncos’ general manager, was phoning him to share the good news.
Not only was Agim heading west to learn under the tutelage of All-Pros like Jurrell Casey and Von Miller, but he was also the first defensive Razorback player picked in the third round or higher since 2012. Not bad for someone whose career was as up and down as any five-star recruit who has played for the Hogs, cycling through the firings of two head coaches, position changes, underwhelming performances and multiple close losses.
Agim played all four seasons, graduated early, and finished his career with 31.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks — just out of the all-time Razorbacks Top 10 in both categories.
Numbers and what-could-have-beens, however, weren’t top of mind as he heard Elway’s voice. Sitting at the family home in Texarkana, he began to feel the hot tears flow.
“I was trying to talk, but then I was crying at the same time,” the 22-year-old Agim told Pig Trail Nation. “I was like ‘Man, I’m sorry. I know first impressions are everything, so I hate to be trying to articulate my words and crying at the same time. So it was a big cluster.”
Still, he made through, just as he’d made it through so much in his early teen years.
Moments like these 🙏
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 26, 2020
Many Arkansas fans think of Agim’s hometown as Hope, since that’s where he starred as a defensive lineman before his Hog days. Before high school, however, Agim spent much of his youth in Texarkana, Texas.
Throughout childhood, Agim’s guiding light had been his grandmother Charlie B. McGraw. Even though she’d lost her eyesight to diabetes, she made sure Agim and his two sisters, Dominecia and Taneka, stayed out of trouble and made good grades while their mother was away at work.
McGraw’s home at 1320 Caldwell Street, where they all lived, was far from upscale. But the memories he made there — and the love he experienced — have shaped who is today as much as anything else.
Years later, when it was falling apart, paint peeling, wooden front door rotting and several window panes broken, Agim took former Arkansas coach Bret Bielema there during a recruiting trip. He wanted Bielema and other former Razorback coaches to know where he had come from.
“It was letting them see firsthand what I came up in and see the situation,” Agim said in 2015. “That’s my motivation. Like you don’t have to worry about me. I’m going to be on it.”
When McGraw died, it left a huge hole in Agim’s life and his heart at age 11.
Things got tough at his grandmother’s house, where he began to spend a lot of unsupervised time. Finances were a constant source of stress for the family. The electricity came and went, so he heated water on the stove. Once, a repossession agent showed up and tried to take that away.
Agim began hanging out more with friends.
But “he didn’t start stealing from the Dollar General store for fun or to impress friends,” Kurt Voigt wrote for The Associated Press in 2017. “He says he did so to eat in the evenings after his school lunch couldn’t quell the hunger anymore.”
“‘I feel bad about it, but it was either steal or starve,'” Agim said.
The desperation ramped up. In eighth grade, Agim tried to steal a car and run away from the police. Those crimes got him a weekend stint in a juvenile jail cell in Texarkana.
In hindsight, it was a wake-up call. For a whole weekend, he prayed and thought about his grandmother, and how what he was doing went against what she taught him. Years later, Agim would say: “I still have that bond with her, even though she’s passed away. The faith I have is from my grandmother. The faith I have in the Lord is from my grandmother. My values today as a male come from my grandmother. My pride comes from my grandmother.”
He also thought long and hard about what he wanted to do with his future.
When he got out, Agim began to turn his life around. The next couple of years were filled with short moves in and out of Dallas and the small Arkansas town of Emmet, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Agim eventually made his mark in Hope, where his mom Deanna Giddens was a nurse.
With the help of Hope High football coach Jay Turley, Agim developed into the highest-rated defensive line recruit Arkansas has signed in the SEC era. By the time he’d racked up 24 sacks in his senior season, ESPN ranked him as the No. 11 player in the nation overall.
While Agim never broke through as a superstar in college, nor got to savor a great season, he still had a hugely successful time off the field. He graduated early with a degree in Recreation and Sport Management, never forgetting what a difference that time behind bars made.
“I really believe it’s one of the best things to have ever happened to me,” Agim told Voigt. “I thank God that it happened to me then when I could change my life instead of later when it was too late.”
In 2016, Agim returned to Texarkana and shared his story with a group of around 20 teens in a detention center.
“Somebody in the juvenile center right now is locked up and probably thinking, ‘I’ve got no way out,'” Agim said. “If, by talking, I can help somebody else who is feeling the same pain I was, I’ll do it every time.”
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