Drugs derailed the athletic careers of Tony "Da Beast" Suggs and Tracy "Unstoppable" Fells. Two decades later, the Alexandria natives want their missteps to help others travel the path to success.
Suggs and Fells will discuss the impact of drugs on their lives during an event called "Shattered Dreams" at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 18 at the Charles Houston Recreation Center in Alexandria. Admission is free and refreshments will be served. Former BET producer Mike Joyner, who is friends with Suggs and Fells, will host the event.
Suggs, a 1984 graduate of T.C. Williams High School, was one of the top-ranked amateur boxers in the world. The 132-pounder won a gold medal at the 1987 Olympic Festival and was a hopeful for the 1988 Olympic team. But Suggs never got the chance to punch his way to gold in Seoul as he faced a pair of drug charges in 1987 and eventually an eight-month stay in prison. Suggs said he used marijuana, PCP and crack.
Suggs went on to box professionally, but didn’t experience similar success. He said his drug use, in part, was to numb the pain caused by the death of his 7-month-old daughter, Ashley, in 1987. But looking back, Suggs said that was just an excuse.
Now 44, Suggs said he has been clean since Jan. 12, 1989 and wants to share his story to help others from making similar mistakes.
"Boxing was never the same for me, especially after my daughter died," Suggs said. "That’s why I feel like "Shattered Dreams" was the perfect name for this program. I didn’t dream of winning world titles and belts, I dreamed of going to the Olympics and winning a gold medal. … This program is an investment in yourself. If you care anything about yourself, even if you think you might have a problem or you want some help because you just don’t know who else to turn to, [you should attend Nov. 18.]"
Fells is a 1988 graduate of T.C. Williams and former football star. While he garnered attention as an all-state performer at defensive end and linebacker, he was also known as a drug dealer. Fells said he sold marijuana, PCP and crack, but never used
"It’s a thin line between [attention from] drug selling and the accolades that come with … football," Fells said. "You can get them to follow you in football, just like you can get them to follow you selling drugs."
Fells twice faced distribution charges, the second of which led to a 17-year, 8-month prison stay. Fells was locked up as a teenager in February of 1989 and was released in his mid-30s in 2006.
Now 40, Fells works with the non-profit group Peaceoholics, helping the youth of Washington, D.C. become drug and crime free. He teamed up with his friend Suggs to help those in need in Alexandria.
"What we’re doing can’t be bought," Fells said. "You can’t sell what we’re giving — you can’t purchase it. This is true athletes and true testimony of our life and our real-life experiences."
Joyner said Suggs and Fells being local should help relay their message.
"Michael Jordan is one thing, and Sugar Ray Leonard is one thing," Joyner said. "But when you can reach out and touch somebody that’s from your own community, I think it puts another face on it. I think one of the big things is kids being able to relate to the guys [and] hopefully just using their experience as a platform to go in another direction."
The Charles Houston Recreation Center is located at 901 Wythe St. in Alexandria. For more information, call 703-746-5450.