Jehuu Caulcrick lined up for a photograph Tuesday afternoon in the Jamestown Bar Association Room of the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown. He was joined by Jim Johnson, the center's president and chief executive officer, and June Diethrick of the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation.
Together, the trio held an oversized $500 check made out to the Refugee Development Center of Lansing, Mich., one of Caulcrick's favorite charities.
If the more than 100 members of the legal community who turned out to hear Caulcrick speak at the conclusion of their continuing education seminar didn't know of his affection for refugees before, they certainly do now.
Jehuu Caulcrick shares a light moment during his appearance Tuesday afternoon at the Robert H. Jackson Center in Jamestown. The former Clymer Central School and Michigan State University star was a guest speaker that concluded a legal education seminar.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
Some, so impressed by his message, stopped to chat before they left the room. Others wanted an autograph and one even gave Caulcrick his business card.
To say that the former Clymer Central School and Michigan State University football star hit a home run on the eve of the World Series would be an understatement.
Then again, Caulcrick's story, on and off the gridiron, never gets old.
An ESPN-produced mini-documentary began the hour-long ''conversation," conducted by Greg Peterson, a Robert H. Jackson Center board member. The video detailed the incredible journey that Caulcrick has taken from his early days in Civil War-torn Libera to his amazing accomplishments carrying the pigskin.
''It definitely takes me back,'' he said at the conclusion of the video, ''and brings up emotional feelings.''
It's the stuff from which books and movies are made.
No one should have to witness the atrocities that Jehuu, then 7, and his sister, Mardea, then 9, did as they traveled with their grandparents from one refugee camp to the next. But that was almost a daily occurrence during the reign of Liberian president Charles Taylor.
In two years on the run, Caulcrick witnessed his adopted brother killed and his grandfather shot in the leg. His father, a politician, was assassinated and his mother, Bonita - in the United States attempting to obtain visas for her children - couldn't communicate with them.
''People have asked me, 'Were you scared?''' Caulcrick said. ''Honestly, I don't remember being scared because I don't think we had time to be scared.''
But the incredible story turned miraculous when Bonita found her family - after months of searching - back at her parents' home.
''A cab pulls up, (she got out) and my grandfather kept screaming her name,'' Jehuu recalled.
Weeks later - and after much red tape - Bonita obtained visas for her kids and they returned to the U.S. and, ultimately, to Findley Lake where Bonita's then-husband lived.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Thanks to the assistance of the greater Clymer Central School community, Caulcrick thrived, particularly in American football, a sport he had never played before arriving in the U.S.
''In my first jayvee game my first carry was a 62-yard touchdown,'' he said. ''I thought, 'Yeah, I guess I could get used to this.'''
Playing for Coach Howard McMullin - ''He's like a father figure to me'' - Caulcrick led the Pirates to four straight Section 6 Class D championships and four consecutive appearances in the state final four, including a berth in the state championship game in 1999. His 6,559 career rushing yards and 100 touchdowns earned him regional, state and national recognition, ultimately leading to a scholarship at Michigan State.
After four fine seasons in East Lansing, Caulcrick graduated with a degree in sociology and had dreams of playing in the NFL.
An undrafted free agent, he has played for the New York Jets, Tampa Bay, San Francisco and Buffalo. In his only professional carry, he rushed for a first down that set up a touchdown in the Bills' win at Cincinnati in November 2010.
Now 29, Caulcrick is working as a football analyst for Time Warner Cable and the Big Ten Network and was a volunteer assistant coach for the Westfield Central School football team this fall.
''It's an incredible story,'' Peterson said.
Asked if he'd been back to Liberia since those awful days nearly two decades ago, Caulcrick said he hadn't, but that he intends to return next year.
''I plan to go back to do a football camp,'' he said.
One can only imagine the life lessons those Liberian kids will learn during that experience.