By Teresa Varley
It was just moments after practice ended at the Steelers facility on the South Side when Verron Haynes sat down on a bench, wiped the sweat off his forehead and sat back to relax and collect his thoughts.
The warm afternoon sun glistened off the river, while leaves changing colors dotted the hillside.
The calm surroundings on the picture-perfect fall afternoon provided a deep contrast to the intensity that just took place on the field.
For Haynes, that peaceful atmosphere was just right. Because as he began talking about his cousin, his mind was somewhere else at times, possibly reverting back to a happier time in his life.
Haynes cousin, Kadine DeCosta, was like a sister to him. She grew up in the same house as he did. She was a friend, a confidant and someone he loved dearly.
"When I got to the NFL she was the sister who kept me straight," said Haynes. "We grew up together. She would come to the games. On draft day I got away from everybody, I didn't want anyone around. No party or anything. I just wanted to be with my loved ones. There was just my daughter, my mom, Kadine and my brother. I didn't want anything else. Those were the four people I wanted around me."
What saddens Haynes these days is the absence of DeCosta in his life and the life of his family. She lost her battle with breast cancer almost three years ago, losing her life at just 26-years old.
"When it hits so close to home, it hurts really bad," said Haynes, his voice trailing off for a moment. "The treatment was the hard part. Seeing such a pretty young lady and the transformation it had on her. I think that was difficult to deal with, especially in the last days. Trying to be there for her and seeing her go through that was hard for our family to go through."
Haynes knows there is nothing he can do to bring DeCosta back. But there is something he can do to help others. And he is.
"Her death really made me more alert of breast cancer," said Haynes. "I started a foundation so we can better understand what is going on and try to find a cure. I know it affects a lot of homes. It is something I want out there to recognize it is a problem. We have to come together and try to come up with something."
His foundation, the Verron Haynes Foundation, is still in the young stages. Haynes helps raise funds for it by doing autograph sessions and speaking engagements. He would like some day to set up a scholarship in his cousin's name.