Seventeen-year-old Tre’mel James Jamari Covert is not sure his biological mother has ever seen him participate in a sporting event. He has never even met his biological father.
The absence of parents, however, has not stopped the Gainesville High senior from succeeding on the field. Colleges from across the Southeast are recruiting him to participate at the next level.
Covert, who goes by Trey, has lived with his grandmother full-time since he was about 6 years old.
He’s a dual-sport athlete for the Gainesville High Purple Hurricanes, playing varsity football and baseball. The Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida, and Valdosta State University have expressed interest in Covert as a football player, and Alcorn State University in Mississippi wants him to play baseball.
The Gainesville native would prefer to pursue a football career as a wide receiver at Florida Tech, where he can reunite with his close friend Henry Montgomery, a freshman defensive back at the school.
“I’ve known him for a while. He’s like my brother,” Covert said. “He’s really wanting me to go there and get me and him back.”
Although Covert’s first and true love is football, baseball also gives him the opportunity to showcase his athletic prowess. Through March 31, the left fielder had a .293 batting average and was tied for second on the team with his best friend, Kyle McGriff, with 9 RBIs through 17 games.
Also as of March 31, the Hurricanes were ranked first in their district and are set to host the district tournament later this year. If they win at least one game in the tournament, they’ll advance to the playoffs, according to coach Adam Souilliard, who had heaps of praise for his left fielder.
“Trey genuinely cares for the other members on his team,” Souilliard said. “He smiles all the time, is coachable and wants to be better so that the team is successful. Trey takes in the information that he gets from coaches and other players and uses it to further the team mission of success.”
Covert also boasts a 3.5 GPA at Gainesville High and plans to study sports medicine in college.
Covert said his mother has lived in Ocala for most of his childhood and that he would go back and forth between her and his grandmother starting at about age 4. When he turned 6, he made the move to his grandmother’s for good.
Covert said he likes sports because his teams feel like family. He said he is trying to make a difference in his own family by going to college and potentially pursuing a future in either football or baseball.
“I’m just trying to make it in one of them to help take the pressure off of my grandma,” he said.
Covert’s grandmother, 59-year-old Rosemary Francis, said that her grandson splitting time between both households was disruptive.
“I felt [his mom] was neglecting him a lot, so I had to take action,” Francis said.
Covert said his birth mother “has just made bad decisions.”
“She’s had four children and doesn’t [currently take care of] any of them,” he said. “She chose the wrong lifestyle.”
Covert doesn’t talk about his family situation a lot or go into great detail, even with those very close to him, but people can tell he does what he does for his grandmother.
“He has never said it because of his humble demeanor when talking about himself,” Souilliard said, “but I think a lot of what he does in succeeding is because of his want to make his grandmother proud.
“I think he wants to do the things to make sure that his grandmother won’t have to worry about him.”
Francis is raising three children in her household. Along with Covert, she also cares for 2-year-old Love Caswell and 1-year-old Heaven Caswell, Covert’s half-siblings, and is in the process of legally adopting them both. Francis also raised Covert’s older brother, Riche. Riche, 21, has since moved out and has a child of his own.
Francis said that Covert is mature and responsible for his age, and she noticed it early on in his life.
“He’s a leader, not a follower,” Francis said. “He doesn’t rely on me for anything and does everything on his own.”
She also pointed out that Covert is humble, and not a lot of people know his situation.
Rosemary and Trevor Francis, her husband of 11 years, receive $242 a month each for both Heaven and Love from a caregiver program and just recently started receiving another $180 for Covert because the state put all of the children in her care. Covert’s portion will stop coming in once he turns 18 on May 15.
“I would like to do more for Trey, but I thank God for what we have. And I think God has blessed us,” Rosemary Francis said. “It’s been rough, but I couldn’t be thanking God every day and still be whining. He has taken care of me.”
Francis said she is proud of Covert and is excited for him to go to college to pursue an education and play a sport that he loves. However, his parting will be bittersweet.
“He plays a really big part in our lives, and I’m going to miss him,” she said. “He’s my rock.”