CHICAGO — Daurice Lee and his girlfriend, Carliysia Clark, had similar dreams.
Both wanted to earn good grades at Wendell Phillips Academy, graduate near or at the top of their class and eventually head to an Ivy League school: Dartmouth for Lee, Princeton for Clark. Lee and Clark hoped to use their respective undergraduate degrees to become a mechanical engineer and pediatrician.
"They were fun discussions," said Lee, of Altgeld Gardens.
Clark also told Lee time and time again to use football to help structure his hectic academic schedule.
"She said I should always stay on the field, and good things would happen," said Lee, Phillips' starting center and long snapper. "That really helped me a lot."
Lee is the No. 1 student in the Phillips junior class with a 3.5 grade point average. Phillips head coach Troy McAllister said Lee is simply "an unbelievable young man."
Clark, 15, was third in the same class last year, but was the oldest of four siblings who died in a Roseland house fire on Sept. 8, 2014. The fire began in a second-floor apartment and spread upstairs to the family's third-floor unit through an open door, trapping them inside, officials said. Two adults, including the children's mother, Shamaya Coleman, escaped by jumping from a third-floor window, officials said.
Before every football game, Lee honors Clark with a prayer. He certainly will do the same prior to Phillips' IHSA Class 4A state semifinal against fellow 12-0 squad Marengo at Gately Stadium on Saturday. Phillips is seeking its second straight trip to the state championship game, and, in doing so, would become just the third Chicago Public League team to have an opportunity to play for a state title — joining the 1982 Robeson squad. No Public League outfit has ever won a state crown.
"I feel like we put the city on our back when we go far in the state playoffs," Lee said.
Lee last talked to Clark on Sept. 6, 2014, before a game against Carmel of Mundelein at Phillips' home stadium, Mandrake Park. Clark couldn't go because she couldn't find bus fare.
Lee said he talks to Shamaya Coleman about once a month, just to check up and make sure she's OK.
"She's a supporter for me," Lee said. "She tells me to keep doing what I'm doing, the same things her daughter told me."
Lee has several pictures of Clark on his bedroom wall. And Lee said he knows how proud Clark would be if Phillips would home the state hardware.
Daurice Lee with his girlfriend Carliysia Clark, who died in a fire in 2014.
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