Reporting by Dave Owens, WUSA 9
GERMANTOWN, Md. (WUSA 9) — Life is good for Rasheed Gillis, a young man defined by four things: friends, football, a state championship and family.
“The minute I met Rasheed, I knew he was going to be a champion, no one else believed it, I don’t want to get emotional but no one else believed it,” said Kimberly Bennett, Rasheed’s legal guardian.
Raised near Pinehurst, North Carolina by his grandmother, Rasheed grew up in a house the size of a single-family garage. Gillis was as at-risk as it gets.
“I was always at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Rasheed.
One day he was at the right place, when he met Chris Pratapas and his wife, Kimberly Bennett, volunteers in a community hoops program.
“[It’s] not just [about] helping them in basketball, but [in] leadership and confidence,” said Chris Pratapas.
Soon, Gillis was not just on the hoops team, he was spending time in the Pratapas home, playing with their two sons. A special bond started to form, so much so that when Chris’ job called for relocation to Toronto, the family thought: Why not have Rasheed live with them?
It was an enormous decision for all, one that was especially gut-wrenching for Gillis, who had younger siblings in North Carolina.
“It was hard, real hard,” said Gillis. “One night we talked about it and we decided it was the best decision for me.”
The Pratapas family obtained legal custody and Gillis blossomed, starring in youth football in Canada. Soon after, another relocation beckoned for the family.
Chris and Kimberly moved from Toronto to Bel Aire, Maryland to Montgomery County, and the family was about to stumble upon another part of this amazing journey, one that involved Northwest High School.
The Jaguars football team just happened to be coached by Chris’ former college football teammate at Wake Forest, Mike Neubeiser, who welcomed Rasheed with open arms.
“It is an inspirational story, but you know he just kind of fits in with everybody,” said Neubeiser.
Actually, Gillis stands out. He helped lead Northwest to the Maryland 4A state title last Friday night.
He says he wears the number 12 because when he was 12 years old, Chris and Kimberly’s family took him and his life changed. By the look of the smile on his face these days, it would appear so.