Generally speaking, sports writers avoid cliches the way sufferers of arachnophobia avoid spiders.
Cliches are, by definition, common and therefore largely uninteresting.
But Wednesday morning at Penn Charter when senior running back and defensive back Edward Saydee said, “family is everything. They’re gonna be by your side no matter what,” the context within the words had tremendous power — and his older brother has the scar on his foot to prove it.
The journey that began in Liberia continued Wednesday when Saydee, who had committed to Temple in June, signed his national letter of intent to play football for the Owls, flanked by his father and brother inside the library on Penn Charter’s East Falls campus.
“I’ve been waiting for this my entire life,” said Saydee, who came to the U.S. in 2003 when his family fled civil war in Liberia.
Today, Saydee, 19, is an imposing 5-foot-11, 190-pound senior who used speed and power to become Penn Charter’s all-time leader in career rushing yards (3,514) this season.
When he was about three years old, however, Saydee was helpless while his older brother Eugene pushed him in a cart as they left town and walked home on a windy evening with dwindling sunlight near Liberia Monrovia.
When the pair passed under a tree, a branch, Eugene thought, fell on the cart near his younger brother.
His mother, Comfort Saydee, had previously tasked Eugene, who was nine at the time, with shepherding his younger brother.
So when he realized the branch was actually a palm-sized spider, Eugene got the flock away, but left his own foot in peril.
“I don’t know what kind of spider, but it was big,” Eugene said, laughing. “I know it was big. That spider was big!”
Unfortunately for the top of his right foot, which is still scarred, the slippers he wore were not.
“In Africa we weren’t wearing sneakers and stuff,” Eugene said. “It just landed on my foot and took a good bite out of me.”
In pain and tears, Eugene still rolled his one-sheep flock home, where Comfort Saydee tried to limit the damage with at-home remedies.
“Where we were it wasn’t like you could rush out to the hospital,” Eugene said.
Days later the swelling in his foot subsided.
About a year later, though, rain water then caused swelling of the area’s oft-overwhelmed and open drainage system that carried waste into a nearby river.
Saydee wanted to play in the streets anyway.
“He was hard-headed when he was little,” Eugene joked. “When I saw him the water was taking him."
Eugene jumped in, grabbed his brother and held on until a friend helped pull them both to safety.
If you saved your little brother from a large African spider and pulled him from surging sewage, who could argue if you took some of the credit when that brother became a football star?
But Eugene, who works as a program leader in a behavioral health center, wants something different.
“I just want him to continue to work hard because I want his dreams to come true,” Eugene said. “I feel like he worked really hard from where he came from, and just coming (to the U.S.) didn’t stop his dreams. He kept working hard at something that he loves.”
In addition to Eugene, Saydee also thanked his girlfriend Amira Martin, a sophomore studying medicine at Villanova, and his father, Tarlue Saydee, who has only seen his son play football twice.
Comfort Saydee has only watched her son play once — the Quakers’ last game of the season this year.
Saydee was so excited that he rushed for 277 yards and five touchdowns in a 41-14 route of rival Germantown Academy.
“She’s gonna come see one of my games (in college),” he said. “For sure, she will.”
Saydee recently met with new Owls coach Manny Diaz, who was introduced as Geoff Collins' successor last Thursday, and is excited about the future.
“I knew I didn’t pick Temple for a coach,” he said. “I picked it because the players, the culture. I really loved it, and it’s home.”
And home also means family.
“This means a lot because I always wanted to make myself better,” Saydee said. “And I feel like this opportunity, football or not, I have a chance to (put) my family in a better place."