There was a time in Titus Hasson's life when he didn't believe he would play football again.
He wouldn't be on the field Friday night in the 53rd Brea Lions Club Orange County North-South All-Star Football Game at Orange Coast College if it weren't for a family that took him in three years ago.
That family is the Thames, his aunt Michelle and uncle Jehrrod. The Thames became Hasson's family while at Newport Harbor High after he moved in from Las Vegas.
When the Thames lost one of their three kids last month, it affected Hasson. Myles Thames passed away at age 9 after suffering cardiac arrest due to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
Hasson loved Myles, as much as his other two cousins in the Thames household. When Hasson steps on the field before the 7:15 p.m. kickoff, he will no doubt have a heavy heart.
The day before Myles collapsed while playing basketball at a local Boys & Girls Club, Hasson and Myles wrestled and played around at home. Hasson has called this same place home since moving in during the summer heading into his sophomore year at Newport Harbor.
Back then, football took a back seat in Hasson's life.
Michelle told her nephew that in order to play football again, Hasson had to improve his grades. He sat out his first season and focused on school.
Hasson is thankful that his aunt pushed him. His grades went up, and when he returned to the football field as a junior, his play elevated the Sailors.
Hasson's reward for turning in his best season as a senior is getting to play one more game representing Newport Harbor. He's going to compete with and against many of the best seniors in the county.
The running back is one of six local players expected to play for the South All-Stars. The others are Newport Harbor defensive end Steve Michaelsen, Corona del Mar wide receiver Josh Giger, Costa Mesa running back Mario Smith, and Estancia defensive tackle Alipa Peters and offensive tackle Zach Bateman.
The South's backfield, with Hasson and Smith, is explosive.
The two tailbacks earned Daily Pilot Newport-Mesa Dream Team honors this past season, Hasson as the All-Purpose Player of the Year. Hasson contributed in many ways in leading the Sailors to their third straight CIF Southern Section Pac-5 Division playoff appearance.
He performed at a high level at running back, safety and as a kick returner. The stats he produced – 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns, 78 tackles and two interceptions, a 32.3-yard average per kickoff return and one 90-yard touchdown return – garnered accolades. He made the All-Orange County third-team defense and received the All-Sunset League Defensive Back of the Year award.
Not bad for a teenager who never thought he would play football again after leaving the desert three years ago for the beach.
Hasson plans to play on the next level, first at Fullerton College and then transfer to a Pacific 12 Conference school.