A glorious win has been followed by a devastating loss.
Andre Sloan-El Sr., an assistant coach for the newly crowned Catholic Red football champ, Roman Catholic, and the adoptive father of star rusher Balial Lewis Sloan-El, died Saturday after a 10-month battle with cancer. He was 51.
Sloan-El, the wide receivers coach, was a member of coach Jim Murphy's staff for six seasons. Failing health this season had limited his input to only a few games and practices.
He was able to watch CN8's live telecast of Roman's 10-9, title-game success Dec. 1 over St. Joseph's Prep, in which Balial rushed for 118 yards while completing a 2007 campaign that saw him become the sixth most productive one-season rusher in city history (2,141).
"I called him on the bus ride back to Roman and told him, 'We just won the championship, champ!' " Murphy said. "His voice was very weak. That got me worried . . . This is so tough. He was a salt-of-the-earth guy."
Miriam Sloan-El said her husband left a position in the corporate world about 15 years ago to become a teacher. He most recently taught special ed in the Cramer Elementary School, in Camden, and was a long-time coach with the Pennsauken (N.J) Youth Athletic Association.
"He loved teaching, but really, love of kids was his passion," Mrs. Sloan-El said. "He touched a lot of lives as a mentor. He was so proud of the way Balial blossomed once he had a strong male figure in his life."
Said Murphy: "There was something special about the bond between 'Dre and kids. We all saw it again and again. Our players loved him.
"When I had to yell at a player, 'Dre was always the guy I chose to help me out. Either to go to the kid beforehand, so maybe I would not have to jump down his throat, or afterward to soften the blow. Things would always get better. He'd always get through to them."
Aside from his wife and Balial, Sloan-El is survived by five other natural/adopted children ranging in age from 25 to 16 - Lauren, Andre Jr., Jasmine, James and Robert. Andre Jr. was a football (quarterback)/basketball (wing guard) star at Roman and this season passed for 965 yards and four touchdowns for Emporia State, in Kansas. *