Darralyn Scobee sat among a much younger group of people last Saturday in the William R. Johnson Coliseum on the campus of Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas. Darralyn waited patiently for one of the most rewarding days of her life while her four children and two grandchildren sat in the crowd, each clutching a camera and trying to record every moment of the event.
Darralyn, in her mid-fifties, was graduating from college with a bachelor's degree in horticulture and the entire family was there to witness it. As she waited for the commencement ceremony to begin her thoughts began to drift back to another historic weekend in the Scobee family back in April of 2004.
Her son, Josh, was surrounded by family members in his Ruston, La. home as they awaited the fate of his NFL career. He was eventually selected by the Jacksonville Jaguars and has become one of the NFL's elite kickers.
"I was thinking about how we sat around waiting and waiting," Darralyn said. "Then all of sudden it happens and then it's gone. They can tell you ahead of time what to expect, when to walk and what to do and when to smile. For your 60 seconds of fame, it's as fun as it gets."
Draft day was one of the most bittersweet days of Darralyn's life. Her husband and the children's father, David, had died of cancer when Josh was 12. Darralyn couldn't help but think about how proud her husband would be of his son and what he had accomplished.
"His dad wasn't there to share it," Darralyn said. "Like Josh has said many times, his dad hasn't missed a game yet. He is with us all the time, but I sure would have liked to have had him there, just to see his face and share that moment with his son. Those are the times I feel the loss the most, when Josh doesn't have his dad to turn around and hug or throw a ball to up in the stands."
Darralyn and David met in college at LeTourneau University in Longview and both dropped out of college to get married. They had four children, two daughters and two sons. Darralyn was content with raising a family and being the best mother possible. The family had bought land in the Ozarks Mountains and that is where Darralyn saw their future.
Things quickly changed when David was diagnosed with cancer and eventually passed away. Darralyn had home-schooled her children up to that point, but it was no longer possible. She had to find work immediately as four kids ranging from age seven to 20 were counting on her.
"She had to get a job without a college degree and we know how tough that is, let alone make enough money to support four kids," Josh said. "She had more than one job at a time and we all struggled pretty hard. She struggled the most to make ends meet. She's a major reason that any of us have made it anywhere because she taught us how to work hard."
Although Darralyn worked several jobs, she encouraged her children to chase their dreams. Josh played every sport he could and traveled most weekends to Dallas with his club soccer team. Josh's older brother, Matt, was a standout baseball player and his older sister, Joy, excelled at swimming. Liz was the youngest when her father died at age seven and she was a standout gymnast.
Josh could feel the strain and stress it was putting on his mother because she wasn't always able to make the games.
"They were my life and they still are," Darralyn said. "I wouldn't have it any other way. Josh played every sport as well as anyone on the field. I would just sit on the sidelines bursting with pride because he was one of the best out there. It's the same thing for my other kids. I have four fantastic, talented children. Josh just gets more TV time."
In 2001, Darralyn took a job at Kilgore Community College, an hour and a half southwest of Longview. She also began taking classes and eventually earned her associates degree. She decided to enroll at Stephen F. Austin in the fall of 2006 and started working in the horticulture department. She never asked for help from any of her children, but she would call to ask advice on certain things.
"She's always been proactive in all of her approaches in life," Josh said. "She's always liked working outside, working on the yard and that kind of thing. Being a lady in her mid-fifties, that is not something you see every day. It takes a toll on you working outside but she's been doing it anyway because she loves to do it."
Darralyn has no plans to stop as she will soon begin work toward her master's degree in the same field with her main discipline in geospatial information systems.
"What I love doing right now is not a thing someone has to retire from, " Darralyn said. "I never saw myself doing this. This has just opened up and it looks like such fun. I love to learn. It's something I always told my kids. You never stop learning. Don't ever think 12th grade or at the end of college that you are done. You never stop learning."
Last weekend was the perfect gift for Mother's Day. Getting all her children in one place has been a tough task for Darralyn. Josh brought the entire family together last year for Christmas in Jacksonville for the first time in seven years. His mother attends five or six Jaguars game each year and made the trip to New England for the playoff game.
"It couldn't have been a better combination of days" Darralyn said. "I told them this is fabulous because I get to have them all there for graduation and then celebrating Mother's Day. It made it more special that they came just for me.
Her son wouldn't have missed it.
"We are so proud of her," Josh said. "For her to go back to school and graduate takes a lot. It's not something most people do once they reach a certain age. She was thinking a while back that the older she gets she would want to retire eventually, but she just got this degree. She wants to make it work."
Darralyn will have a lasting memory of last weekend, when she received her diploma and turned to the crowd.
"I came off the stage and there's the whole group of them standing there with cameras," Darralyn said. "It's ironic because I'm not as comfortable in the spotlight. I'm used to sitting back and letting him (Josh) take it. My heart was just as full as it can be. They are a mother's dream."