Leandro Linares (center) and two other players sit in their empty living room. (Oct. 18, 2013/FOX Carolina)
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -
It's not the dream four young men had when they came to Greenville - a barren apartment, sleeping on the floor.
"I came out here with high dreams and high hopes," said Leandro Linares. "I come to Greenville, and nothing."
Linares came from Miami to train and be a part of a football team known as the AOD Silverbacks, a team and organization whose intention, according to their website, is to give football players a second chance at getting an athletic scholarship.
Linares admitted his grades weren't good in high school, and he said that affected his prospects when he was trying to pursue a college football scholarship.
Linares said AOD was supposed to be a step towards a college education.
"This guy, Lee Durkin, sent me an email saying about a year after high school and asked me if I still wanted to play football," said Linares. "It just sparked something in me. I wanted to go play football, I have the talent, why not?"
Linares said Durkin was going to give him and more than a dozen others that second chance - but even Durkin himself said that didn't happen.
"That is true, and there's a reason they didn't have any games," said Durkin.
Linares, along with three other Silverbacks players, are the only ones from the team that remain in Greenville. They all said their dream was shattered as the organizers of the team made empty promises - like having a full football team.
"When I first got here, there were only two people here," said Edwin Durassaint, a Miami-area high school grad, who said he arrived late to the initial practices.
The players also said that they were promised games would be happening.
"We paid money, and then [Durkin] still wanted other things paid," said Jadiel Edwards, a Silverback player from Virginia.
On its website, the AOD Silverbacks said it serves as an academic and athletic development program. Durkin acknowledged the organization's "pay-to-play" nature, where team members pay to be a part of the team, and that everything was lined out in the contracts the players signed.
Durkin said the season ultimately had to be canceled because he wasn't getting paid.
"I'm $17,000 in the hole right now for uniforms and college planning services," he said.
But for the young men still in Greenville, they say football is the furthest thing from their minds.
Some are just barely out of high school, are facing eviction from their apartment and have barely anything to eat.
Durkin says he will pay for a bus ticket to get them back home. But they want to stay, at least through the semester. All are students at Greenville Tech and said they don't want to ruin their grades or their financial aid for the future.
"I'm trying to survive, literally survive until Dec. 12 when I finish my classes and go back home," said Linares, who added that focusing on his studies has led to better grades.
Tuesday afternoon, Greenville Police told FOX Carolina that they were investigating the case.
Anyone wishing to help out the players is asked to make donations out to them personally. The apartment complex they live at, The Reserve at Cavalier on Cavalier Drive, said they're organizing a fundraising effort of food and money to keep the young men in the apartment until the end of the semester.
Copyright 2013 FOX Carolina (Meredith Corporation). All Rights Reserved.
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