Nadine Jackson and young Sedale.
Jackson and her son embarked on a nomadic existence, moving from one place to another around the city of Boston. Each move represented a baby step up the socioeconomic ladder -- from sleeping on the same futon as her toddler in the attic of a relative's house to their first apartment to their first home, just days before Sedale's 16th birthday.
Three months after the fire, Jackson interviewed with then-New England Patriots general manager Patrick Sullivan to be his administrative assistant. The job interview was unusual, to say the least, from its location (a neighborhood pub/restaurant) to its searing honesty. Sensing that Sullivan might be concerned about hiring a woman whose son was fathered by a pro athlete, Jackson told him the whole story.
"I just wanted Mr. Sullivan to know that I wasn't a sports groupie," Jackson explains. "I wanted him to know that I was a woman who fell in love, had a child who I loved dearly and wanted to provide a better life for."
Sullivan, whose father owned the Patriots at the time, appreciated Jackson's candor. Within days, Jackson had the job with the Patriots, but still didn't have money to put down on an apartment. She called one of her best friends from UMass, Renee Payne, who was more than happy to help. Jackson and Sedale moved into the two-family house of Payne's parents and paid room and board to share the second floor (three bedrooms) with Renee and her sister, Carla.
By March 1989, moving up the ladder at the Patriots (she eventually rose to the team's Director of Community Relations), Jackson was able to save enough money to get her own apartment and moved to the other side of Dorchester on the first floor of a three-family house. Within the first three months of living there, the house was broken into while she was at work at Foxboro Stadium and Sedale was at school.
"They stole everything that would fit through the back kitchen window," Jackson recalls.
The landlord put bars on the windows, so Jackson elected to stay. The decision nearly cost her dearly. A couple of months later, as Sedale splashed around in the tub with his cars and trucks during bath time, Jackson bent down to pick up a laundry basket.
"As I bent down, I heard something pop against the shade of the barred window nearest my head and then something rattling down the hallway (wooden floors)," Jackson recounts. "We turned and looked at the shade and saw a hole ... We walked down the hall to find what it was that suddenly hit the floor and we found a bullet.
"Stunned, shocked, fearful, and grateful to God that I bent down just when I did, we called the police. When they arrived and we told them the story, they informed us that it was probably a result of a gang-related gunfight a couple of blocks away."
The next day, the Patriots star pass rusher Andre Tippett stopped by Sullivan's office and saw that Jackson was clearly shaken up. Tippett offered a helping hand. He was on his way out of state for the summer and needed someone to house sit his condo in Weymouth, Mass., until he came back for preseason camp.
"I immediately and graciously took him up on his offer and moved Sedale out to Weymouth," Jackson says. "By the time Tip came back for preseason, I found my own two-bedroom apartment in Weymouth."
Tippett wasn't the only member of the family-owned Patriots to treat Jackson and her son like family. Sullivan often let Sedale sleep on his couch in the general manager's office. Former Patriots quarterback Steve Grogan taught Sedale how to throw passes. Harold Jackson, the Patriots' receivers coach, would regularly play catch with the boy.
Sedale Threatt Sr. with teenaged Sedale Jr.
But getting Sedale Threatt Sr. to act like family was another matter entirely.
In the fall of 1989, a family court judge in Philadelphia ordered Sedale's father to pay $250 a week in child support plus $50 weekly toward his two-and-a-half years of back payments, for a total of $300 a week. Throughout the 16 years he was supposed to receive financial support from his father, the payments were inconsistent. One time, Jackson received a check for $1.97. Other times, she received nothing at all for months. Jackson then asked him to at least help pay for Sedale's private school and college education, even if he didn't send child support on a weekly or monthly basis.
"Verbally, he agreed. However, when the tuition bills came due, he was nowhere to be reached by phone or by mail," Jackson says. "This was just the beginning of continuous broken promises to Sedale, who would wait for weeks during the summers year after year for his dad to call or send for him to come to visit, go to basketball camp, go on vacation with him, etc. Sedale would write him letters and ask me to mail them to his father to remind him that he was waiting ... those were heartbreaking summers."
Yet, when Threatt talks about his father today, there is no trace of bitterness or anger.
"I love my dad, but the fact is that he was never there," Threatt says matter-of-factly. "And I saw the pain that it caused me and my mom. My (longtime) friends and I talk all the time about the importance of manning up, being a man and taking responsibilities for your actions. That's how I live my life, admitting to my mistakes and looking to correct them."
After a series of moves, Sedale and his mom moved back into Renee Payne's parents' house and settled down for about five years. During that time, Jackson worked multiple jobs and saved enough money to finally become a home owner for the first time, buying a place in Mattapan, Mass., in March 2001.
"It was 15 days before my 16th birthday when we got our own place. It was the happiest day of my life," Threatt says. "It was something that she could call hers and I loved that. It was a momentous day, a day that I'll never, ever forget. I'm just so proud of my mom, how hard she worked, and how far we've come."
While saving to buy a house, Jackson -- who left the Patriots to become the executive assistant to Frederick Lane, chairman and CEO of the Boston-based investment firm Lane, Berry & Co. International -- sacrificed her own needs to ensure that her son could attend private schools with small classroom sizes that stressed discipline.
"Nadine Jackson is an extraordinary woman who did everything in her power to give her son a better life," says Bill Burke, the headmaster at St. Sebastian's School in Needham, Mass., the private school Sedale attended from seventh through 12th grade. "She's raised a young man in Sedale who has an ebullient personality, a young man with confidence, a terrific sense of humor, a zest for life, and a personality that lights up every room he steps into.
"It's truly remarkable the young man that Sedale has become and the job that Nadine did in raising him, especially with all the trials and hurdles that the two of them had to overcome. Those two have a bond tighter than any other mother and son that I've ever known."
"They are each other's heart," says Jimmy Milord, who has been close friends with Threatt since the two auditioned for a step-dance group as middle school kids. "When someone literally pulls you out of a burning building and then out of poverty like Auntie Nadine did for Sedale, there's a bond that can't be broken no matter what."
Photos courtesy of Nadine Jackson
Click here for Part 3 of 'My dream is to play on Sundays.'
Posted on Friday, March 23, 2007