REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Growing up in Huntsville's Sparkman Homes Housing area, Delvin Sullivan was determined to make sure he never made his mother cry.
He saw her cry once, and that was enough for him.
The love that the two of them shared along with the positive influences of the Sparkman Homes Boys and Girls Club, and the coaches and friends he made in high school, pulled Sullivan through the tough times growing up in public housing. Instead of drugs and crime, he chose football, basketball and track.
"I lived with my mom and younger sister in Sparkman Homes. My mom lived there for 24 years. I moved out when I went to college at age 18," Sullivan said.
"The Boys Club was the place I could go where my mom didn't have to worry about where I was. As soon as I was out of school for the day, I was at the Boys Club. I did that every day until it was time to go home."
As he became a teenager, Sullivan's interest shifted to sports, and he spent most of his after school hours in sports practice.During those growing up years, he never made his mother cry, at least not sad tears."Still to this day, I really haven't done anything to upset my mom. As long as you can keep a smile on your mom's face, everything else will take care of itself," Sullivan said.Today, Sullivan is a contract specialist with the Army Contracting Command-Redstone attached to the Utility Helicopter Project Office, Program Executive Office for Aviation. He is also a member of the Board of Commissioners for the Huntsville Housing Authority, an Army veteran with two tours in Iraq, and a volunteer at Sparkman Homes Boys and Girls Club, where he also mentors young men. And, on April 11, Sullivan will be among 12 inductees into the Huntsville-Madison County Athletic Hall of Fame for his accomplishments as a basketball, football and track star while attending Butler High School and then at the University of North Alabama and Alabama A&M University."That's the crowning jewel for local recognition for an athlete," he said.Sullivan's tall stature, calm and confident demeanor, friendly smile and polite ways make him a stand out even without the accolades that have come his way. His accomplishments serve as a reminder to young people of how far they can go in life if they stay away from drugs, gangs and crime.
"I don't mind when people see me as an example of a kid that grew up in public housing to become part of the governing body of the Huntsville Housing Authority," Sullivan said. "I tell the young men I mentor that 'It's not where you begin, it's how you finish that matters.' I want to be a good example, a good role model to young people."Growing up, Sullivan had his own good examples to look up to. Besides his mother and his Boys Club mentors, his grandmother and grandfather encouraged him.
"My grandfather was always talking about (Lee High School graduate and collegiate/pro football star) Condredge Holloway. I wanted to be like Condredge Holloway. So, my grandmother signed me up for sports," he recalled.
Holloway, who graduated from Huntsville's Lee High School, was the first African American quarterback to play for the University of Tennessee and in the Southeastern Conference, leading his team to three bowl games in three seasons as a starter. Holloway had a pro career with the Canadian Football League and was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 1999. He is currently the assistant athletic director at the University of Tennessee and owns a sports training business in Huntsville
Sullivan played football and basketball, and ran track from middle school all the way through 12th grade at Butler High School. As a football player, he was a wide receiver and graduated All State. As a track star, he ran the 200 and 400 meter, and the 4x4 relay, did the high jump and triple jump, and competed in decathlons. As a basketball player, he played small forward. In 1991, he was named the first Alabama State Youth of the Year."My best friend, Tony McGinnis, and I were tight and we played sports together. We're still tight friends," Sullivan said. "I had good company in sports. Tony and I walked to practice every day. We will do a lot of stuff together. Our basketball coach, Jack Doss (who now coaches for Johnson High School), was really good at helping us along the way. My choice was to play basketball and football, or get into trouble."He began his collegiate athletic career as a football wide receiver at UNA, but two years later transferred to Alabama A&M because of a change in offense. Alabama A&M had winning seasons the two years Sullivan was on the team. He graduated in 1998 with a business degree and recognition as an All-Conference athlete."Sports is not about winning or losing. It's about learning how to win and learning how to lose," Sullivan said. "The things I learned about winning and losing have helped me all throughout my adult life."Adult life came quick when Sullivan, unable to get much attention as a Pro football prospect, decided to join the Army."(The late) Albert Farrar, who led Boy Scout Troop 400 out of the Sparkman Boys and Girls Club, had a picture of his son as a West Point graduate on the wall there. I decided if the Army was good enough for Mr. Farrar's son, then it was good enough for me," Sullivan said. "So, I got married on May 2, graduated on May 9, and left for the Army on May 21, hoping that I, too, would someday be just like Mr. Farrar -- a consistent display of what a man should be in his love for God, his family and his community."During his eight years of service as a logistics specialist, Sullivan deployed to Iraq in 2003 and then again in late 2005 with the 101st Airborne Division, earning a combat action badge in October 2003.
"I crossed the border into Iraq with the 101st when the war kicked off," he said.In 2006, Sullivan left the Army and returned to Huntsville to work for a defense contractor. A few years later, he was laid off."I could relate that back to losing a game or finishing second. I knew that the best thing to do after a loss is to get back up and fight to be better. It's not the end of the world. It can help you become better as a person and as an employee," he said.Five years ago, Sullivan was hired by ACC-Redstone. He is a level three certified contract specialist.
Sullivan and his wife Felicia, who is also a federal government employee, raised a successful son and daughter, and now have two grandsons. Among his volunteer work, Sullivan coordinates a backpack drive every school year to provide free backpacks for children living in Sparkman Homes."I tell the young men who I mentor that you have to work hard to have what you want. You have to go to work every day and work hard if you want to have any money and, once you earn that money, you have to invest it wisely," he said."So many young men don't see that. They see what other people have, but they don't see the work they put in to get it. I want to reach those young men, and help them to have a good life filled with opportunity and success. I want to mentor young men because someone did that for me. This is my way of giving back."