All Jasonus Tillery wanted was another chance.
A chance to put his past behind him and get back to playing football.
He never planned on having to travel across the country to accomplish both.
But Tillery, who grew up without a father and with a mother addicted to crack on the hardened streets of Newport News, Va., was running out of options when he finally turned to Wyoming Cavalry coach Dan Maciejczak.
"Jasonus kind of tracked me down and said he wanted to come out here and play," Maciejczak said. "He's a real quiet guy that kind of keeps to himself, and I think he does that because it helps him stay out of trouble.
"I believe in second chances, and he's a kid that I wanted to give one to. And it's paid off for us."
He's had plenty.
"I was stupid," Tillery said. "I used to think if I got into trouble I would just deal with it later, but it eventually caught up with me."
Those problems caught up to Tillery in a big way.
While Tillery won't discuss specifics -- other than saying he was involved in "guns, drugs and some credit card stuff" -- he served 28 months in a Maryland prison for his involvement in a series of crimes.
Since his release last year, Tillery claims to have turned over a new leaf. He says he no longer seeks trouble and, more important, trouble no longer finds him.
"I used to always run from my problems until I finally decided to face 'em," Tillery said. "It's hard, but in the long run you come out better. Unfortunately, I didn't realize this until I was locked up."
Tillery credits his former agent with steering him along the right path.
It was a welcome change after a lifetime of moving in the wrong direction.
"Honestly, I think all of my problems came from ... I don't like to say this, but I'm gonna say it ... my mom," Tillery said. "To this day, she's still doing crack. She's been doing crack since I was like 9 years old, and we went from house to house, getting put out.
"My sisters went to live with my grandma and I stuck around with her because I was a mamma's boy. So I guess I got the short end of the stick."
Now, Tillery wants to do what he can to help his son, who lives in New Jersey with his mother, Tillery's ex-girlfriend, avoid the same fate.
In just seven complete games with the Cavs, Tillery has established himself as one of the top receivers in the American Indoor Football Association. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound receiver leads the league with 17 touchdown catches heading into Saturday's game against Wenatchee Valley.
Where football always came easy for Tillery, off-the-field issues continually derailed him.
"I was just all over the place, and I guess I never really had no role model," Tillery said. "I always had to learn on my own and I always made bad decisions.
"I didn't really get caught up in no crowds, though, I was a homebody. I didn't get a lot of attention when I was at home because my mom struggled with me and my sisters, but I guess she did the best she could. I guess I just matured too late."
Problems in high school scared away the major college recruiters, and Tillery eventually signed with Virginia Union, where he played football his first semester and ran track in the spring.
Tillery continued to find trouble, however. He transferred to Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C., for the next two years before finishing his college career at Kean University in Union, N.J., in 2004.
Despite his checkered past, Tillery's on-field talent allowed him to keep earning chances to keep playing football.
He had a brief stint in the Canadian Football League and had tryouts with both the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins in 2006. Tillery also played with various indoor football teams.
Tillery still has dreams of playing in the NFL or even the Arena Football League or United Football League, but his long-range goals hold even more promise.
"Eventually I want to try to work with young kids and get them started in the right direction," Tillery said. "I know what it's like to not have a father, so maybe if I can change one life, then that one kid can help someone else and it will start a cycle."
It's a chance that Tillery never had.
Contact sports reporter Jack Nowlin at (307) 266-0528 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SECOND CHANCE: Cavs wide receiver Jasonus Tillery spent 28 months in prison, but is taking advantage of getting a chance to get his life back on track in Casper.
HE SAID IT: "I used to always run from my problems until I finally decided to face 'em. It's hard, but in the long run you come out better." – Tillery.