One year after adoption, Beaumont teen has new team and outlook on life
It still feels brand new to Anthony Berry.
The 17-year-old dressed out in football pads stands on the practice field behind Beaumont United High School and reminisces about walking into the Jefferson County Courthouse a year ago.
He walked in with a beaming smile and walked out with a new family and a fresh start.
His adoption by his former teacher, Bennie Berry, got national attention, something neither one expected. The two could be seen on news networks across the country, including a segment on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”
“We weren’t really looking for it to blow up like that,” Anthony said. “But when it did, it was everywhere.”
The media craze has passed, and Anthony said he is still adjusting to a new family and a new school. The only thing familiar these days to the senior linebacker is the sport he says “saved” him on multiple occasions: football.
“We are just trying to bond and learn about each other, and it takes time for a mother and son to do that,” he said of his relationship with Bennie Berry. “It still feels new even now.”
When Anthony first brought up the topic of adoption, Bennie didn’t exactly take him seriously. Anthony was a student in her class at Pathways Alternative Learning Center in 2016.
“I thought he was trying to be funny,” she said. “I thought it was a joke.”
But Anthony was serious.
Soon, the two were celebrating holidays together. Thanksgiving came first, then Christmas for the new family.
The everyday drama of having a teenager in the house has been the biggest adjustment for Bennie.
“He tells me he’s the man of the house now,” said Bennie, 44. “I correct him and tell him ‘No, you’re just the male.’”
More than 17,000 children currently are in the foster care system in Texas. Of those, 3,811 are awaiting adoption. The majority of them are over the age of 6.
Nearly 300 children up to age 17 are awaiting adoption in Jefferson County; 185 more reside in Orange County.
“They overcome a lot of obstacles, many that aren’t even their fault,” Child Protective Services spokeswoman Sheri Pulliam said. “So to be adopted they get to choose who their family is; and it is the greatest day in their life, their adoptive family’s life and in the case worker’s life.”
Anthony enrolled at Beaumont United before this school year hoping to join the Timberwolves’ football team. He had played at Ozen High School last season.
But while dealing with some troubles regarding his biological parents, Anthony walked away from football.
To coach Arthur Louis’ dismay, Anthony did not attend Beaumont United’s mandatory summer workouts.
“I had a lot of things going on in my life at that point and I just didn’t feel like I had the time or space for football,” Anthony said.
But Louis wouldn’t take no for answer. With some coaxing from Kirby Jones, a United assistant who has coached Anthony since middle school, Anthony returned to the team at the junior varsity level.
“I just wasn’t going to let that happen,” Louis said of Anthony leaving the team. “Kirby called me up and said ‘I think Anthony is going to quit.’ I told him ‘Yeah, OK. We’ll see about that.’”
Anthony soon earned his way back up to the varsity level as Louis’ first callup. Playing linebacker and on special teams, Anthony is making the most of his second chance.
“I just didn’t want to waste the opportunity,” Anthony said. “I’m just thankful to coach Louis for opening up his heart and letting me come back to the team.”
The Timberwolves (2-6, 2-3) are still in the playoff hunt in District 21-6A. They host North Shore on Saturday.
Anthony hasn’t ruled out attending college, but he is also considering enlisting in the military after graduation.
“I’m just looking forward to whatever the future holds,” he said.
Erica Apodaca contributed.