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BOSTON (CBS) – New England Patriots corner Antwaun Molden has had to overcome hardships throughout his life, and his path to the NFL was no different.
Molden was raised by his grandmother, Bernice, in Ohio, and was always smaller than the other kids. He tried to play football at Warren G. Harding High School, a powerhouse during his time there. Undersized and slower than most, he was mocked by the other players.
“I was little; about 5-8, 5-9, 135-lbs soaking wet,” Molden told WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton for Patriots Gameday. “I continued to work, I continued to press on. All those other guys were bigger than me, at every position. So I was the outcast.”
Molden did all he could to pack on the pounds. He spent extra time on the practice field, and hit the weight room hard. At the request of his defensive backs coach, Molden joined the track team.
“There was a place I wanted to go, and to get there I had to compete with the best,” he said.
In the middle of his senior year, Molden transferred to Cleveland’s Glenville High where he also joined the track team. Along with teammate Tedd Ginn Jr., also in the NFL now, Molden was part of three relay teams that broke national records.
But in the end, it did not do much for his football career. He enrolled at Toledo without a scholarship, but was promised there would be one eventually. After three semesters and no scholarship, Molden decided it was time to move on again.
He called his old coach, Robert Andrews, who played a big part in getting Molden to Eastern Kentucky.
“He told me within 48 hours, ‘pack up your stuff you’re going down to Eastern Kentucky.’ And I said, ‘coach, I don’t even know where that is on the map,’” said Molden. “It was a new town, new people, it was the country. But that began the process of my college career.”
But finding his way on the field was the least of Molden’s worries when he got to Eastern Kentucky. After transferring, he proposed to his long-time girlfriend, Joi Smith, a junior on the Michigan track team. Shorlty after their engagement, Smith was diagnosed with a rare form of muscle cancer.
“I was going back and forth taking care of her in Ann Arbor,” recalls Moulden. “She was supposed to be at my first game against Kentucky. After the game I had a few missed calls saying she was in the hospital. Her sister told me she went from stage-two to stage-four in a matter two weeks. That was devastating.”
She passed away in November 2007.
“That was definitely tough, but my faith got me through it,” said Molden, who said he is stronger for living through the loss.
Molden battled through adversity again, and impressed scouts at the NFL combine. He ended up being taken in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft by the Houston Texans. After three seasons and 22 games with the Texans, Molden now finds himself starting for the New England Patriots.
While his name will not get much recognition around the NFL, he had his first career interception last week against the Eagles.
“It was pretty big,” he said of the pick. “Any time injuries happen you want to step in and take advantage of the opportunity. My job was to be prepared for every situation possible. As [head coach] Bill [Belichick] would say, you never know.”
“I went in there, and for the most part had fun. I got an interception, and it was definitely a blessing,” said Molden, who thinks the secondary is coming together.
“We’re against all odds,” he said. “The chemistry there is gelling, and we’re having fun.”
Tune in to Patriots Gameday ever Sunday morning on WBZ-TV at 11:30am.