Dameko Doddles never heard the knocking on his door early on the morning of April 5.
The Douglass senior, who is No. 24 on The Oklahoman’s Super 30 recruiting rankings, slept right through his coach’s pounding. Because of it, he missed an incredible recruiting opportunity at the Nike football combine he was planning to attend in Dallas that day, possibly costing him a chance to show his talent and improve his status as a Division I prospect.
But as it turned out, his sound sleeping afforded him something that will mean more than anything he ever does on a football field.
He got to be with his dying mother during the final hours of her life.
“If I was in Texas, I don’t know how I would’ve handled it,” Doddles said. “There wouldn’t have been anything I could do. I just thank God he let me get to see her, because I got to tell her the things I wanted to tell her.”
When Doddles woke up late that morning, he was angry he missed the combine. But soon, he got a call from Douglass football coach Willis Alexander, who was on his way to get him and take him to the hospital.
Doddles’ mother, Meshelle, was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2011, and the battle had been long and hard. She had been in the hospital for about a week on April 5, when doctors informed her there was nothing more they could do.
“I’ve never been away from my mom. I watched it happen the whole time,” Doddles said. “There was nothing I could do about it. Just pray. For a long time, I didn’t want to believe it. I kept thinking she was gonna get better.
“When I got to the hospital, they told me this was her last hours. This was it.”
The youngest of his siblings, Doddles was the only one still living at home at the time. He now lives with his 22-year-old sister. He credits his Douglass football family for helping him through the aftermath.
Experiencing his mother’s cancer fight and death changed Doddles as a person, and as a football player — though it took some motherly intuition to finally flip that switch last fall.
Doddles had been in trouble at home and at school for some minor misbehavior. Nothing serious, but his mother wanted it stopped. So she went right for what her son loved most, placing a call to Alexander.
“She told me she didn’t want him to play the next game. I went one more,” Alexander said. “I suspended him two games for breaking his mother’s heart. I told him he was gonna be the best scout team player we ever had for two weeks.
“He took his punishment like a man, and that’s when everything started to resonate with him. That’s when he started to become that reliable guy that he needed to be, on the field and off it.”
Doddles admits his mother couldn’t have picked a better punishment.
“At first I thought it was stupid, but she knew if she took my phone, I wouldn’t care. Or if she told me I couldn’t go out, I wouldn’t care,” Doddles said. “But she knew taking football away would change everything.”
Meshelle Doddles had big dreams for her son as a football player. She told him she wanted him to play in college, then in the pros. But she stressed education even more.
“I broke my leg when I was a freshman, and she told me injuries could happen just like that,” Doddles recalled. “What was I gonna have to fall back on if it happened again?”
So that’s the primary focus every time Doddles steps on the football field. He already has a scholarship offer from Wyoming, and other big Division I programs are intrigued by his 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame, either as a receiver or a safety.
“It’s a big honor to have a chance to go to college, because I’m doing it for my mom. This is for me, and this is for her,” he said. “It just pushes me more, because I know I have to be the person she wanted me to be.
“She missed some games last year, because she was sick, but I know she’ll be with me at every game this year.”