By Marie A. Sutton
For The Birmingham Times
Around 8 in the morning, 42-year-old Brandy Core got two troubling phone calls back to back. Friends told her that an email alert had gone out about a police car chase involving two men, one of which was her son, Isaiah. Not only that, one of the men was dead.
“It can’t be Isaiah,” said the Educational Talent Search office manager at Jefferson State Community College. “God had given me a promise that Isaiah will save many lives.”
She knew that her 20-year-old son had some troubles within the last year – smoking weed and “stupid stuff,” she said. But she felt that it was temporary, that he was having a “spiritual battle.” Isaiah had been a star athlete and academic champion since age six. He always addressed his elders with a prompt “yes sir” and “no sir.” He had been a youth leader at his church. Plus, she had a promise from God.
Core immediately thought of the other boy in the car, fearing the worst for him. “I called a friend of mine and said, ‘We need to pray for this boy’s mother.”
But the mother who would need prayer would be her. The “boy” who died was Isaiah.
According to the Shelby County Sherriff’s office, on the morning of June 22, Isaiah and another man were in a 2001 Lincoln Navigator at an apartment complex near the U.S. 280 corridor. Deputies noticed the “suspicious vehicle” being driven by Core’s son. The men fled, which initiated a police chase that continued until Oporto Blvd. near I-20.
The vehicle came to a stop and then, reportedly, “made a life-threatening attempt to injure officers with the vehicle.” At 2:55 a.m., a deputy shot Isaiah. The passenger was not harmed, but upon a search, the car was determined to be stolen as was a gun that was found inside. The young man who had been with Isaiah was later charged with receiving stolen property first degree. Isaiah, however, was taken to UAB Hospital and pronounced dead at 3:15 a.m.
All of this didn’t make sense to Core – at first.
“But God had promised me,” she said, a week later while sitting in her Trussville home. Countless pictures of Isaiah and his sister, Gabrielle, cover the walls, and shelves upon shelves display a number of shiny trophies and accolades.
“When you think about a whole life, nothing led up to make you think this would happen,” Core said. “Yeah, he did stupid stuff, but my baby was a good guy. He was handsome and smart. It should not have resulted in death.”
Isaiah Core III was born on July 20, 1995, weighing 9 lbs. 1 oz. When his mother, who was married to Isaiah’s father at the time, saw her whopping baby boy she said, “You look just like a man.” From then on, she, and everyone who knew him, called him “Man-Man.”
Isaiah, who loved hot wings and hot Cheetos, played basketball, baseball and football and “excelled in all three,” his mother said. “He could play any position. He always made all-star and always made AAU.”
“He was one of a kind,” said Steve Ward, head basketball coach at Huffman High School. “He was the first kid I ever had that excelled in the classroom and on the court. He was special.”
Isaiah was a Scholar-Athlete of the Week and was Huffman’s football quarterback and a guard for the basketball team. His senior year, he was awarded a total of $1.2 million in scholarships and earned the nickname “Million Dollar Man.”
“He helped my program turn a corner with his academics and his leadership,” Ward said. “He was the ideal kid and did everything right.”
And he could dance, too.
Local performing artist Darius Dowdell, 22, met Isaiah when the two were at Clay Chalkville High School. They would do the “regulating” dance together, which was popular at the time.
“I was supposed to be one of the best,” Dowdell said. “I taught him regulator moves. He was always smiling.”
David McGreal, former LaGrange University Associate Head Men’s Basketball Coach, remembers Isaiah’s smile, too. He was trying to recruit the young man, but when he found out that Isaiah had a scholarship to be a quarterback at another university, he thought his chances were bleak. But Isaiah told McGreal that his heart was on the basketball court and agreed to come to LaGrange.
“We needed to get him,” McGreal said. “He was extremely talented.”
With a score of 28 on the ACT, Isaiah’s was the highest of all the recruits in the five years McGreal had been recruiting at the university, he said.
“And he was funny, a jokester,” he said. “Never disrespectful, always ‘yes sir, no sir.’ Whether he agreed or disagreed, he’d do it. He was coachable, not a bad kid.”
While at LaGrange, Isaiah quickly made an impact. He was named USA South Rookie of the Week as well as LaGrange College Athlete of the Week for averaging 19 points per game.
Months later, though, his grades slipped by a fraction of point below the minimum requirement. Although he got his grades back up and was on the team that brought the school its first conference championship, Isaiah decided to leave.
“That was bittersweet” McGreal said. “I hated to see him go.”
After returning to Birmingham, he enrolled at Lawson State Community College and majored in general studies. While there, he worked in the college president’s office for the administrative assistant.
He graduated and got a full scholarship to Miles College although his tenure there was short-lived. When he decided to come home, Core gave him two weeks to find a job. He did, working for a moving company. But then, he was in a motorcycle accident that tore his knee.
“Isaiah played sports all through the years and was active his whole life,” she said. “This was the first time he wasn’t playing sports. When you are so used to being busy. The idle mind is the devils’ workshop.”
Once he recovered, he was different, Core said. He would sleep away from the house for a few days and then come back. She told him that was unacceptable.
“Trying to show him tough love,” she remembered. “He was wrestling with what he should do and those streets.”
“Brandy did a great job raising him,” Ward said. “He was trying to find himself. I believe he was one or two decisions away from getting on track.”
But Core continued to hold fast to a promise God had given her about Isaiah. And, a prophet she respected told her not to worry, “that God has your son in the palm of His hands.”
The last time
On Monday, June 21, Isaiah stopped by Jeff State to meet with a career counselor. He updated his resume because he had a job interview with Cracker Barrel. While there, he stopped to see his mother.
“We talked about an hour,” she said. “I told him, ‘Isaiah whatever God has got to do to get you He is going to do it. You need to stop running from Him. You can’t live in the world and expect him to do what he wants to do with you.”
“Ma, I love the Lord and He loves me,” he told her. “I talk to Him and He talks to me.”
That was their last conversation.
A day later, she was being taken to a back room at UAB Hospital. The trauma surgeon explained that she tried to revive Core’s son but could not. Later, she was staring at her son’s lifeless body.
“He was dead seven hours before I knew,” Core said, noting that he even had an autopsy. “I don’t appreciate it because I would have donated all of his organs.”
When news spread, the community was reeling, she said.
“I was devastated,” Ward said. “I’m been coaching 13 to 14 years and have lost three kids. This one hit me. We were really close.”
“That was the last thing I thought would have happened,” McGreal said, choking up. “He’ll always have a place in our hearts.”
Dowdell refused to belief it at first, he said. It wasn’t until he started seeing the news on social media that it hit him.
“This is not something he would do,” referring to the incident. “That wasn’t his fruit. He was silly, goofy guy. He was trying to get himself together”
He and his brother wrote and recorded a song for Isaiah called “What’s Goin On” and posted it to YouTube. It has more than 1,000 views.
Do you see what’s goin’ on right now? (What’s goin’ on?)
I turn my back there goes another body, officer.
Please don’t say another word, cause it’s already hard for me.
Hoop dreams, now he can’t even ball with me…
The Sunday after his death, all the mothers from the teams Isaiah played on through the years hosted a vigil at Huffman Ball Park. Hundreds of people came to pray. Afterwards, a rainbow formed in the sky. To Core, that meant an answer to God’s promise to her.
At Isaiah’s June 28 funeral at New Rising Star Baptist Church, a thousand people packed the sanctuary with standing room only. Core listed off dozens of dignitaries and people who came from various states to pay respects, from his middle school principal, high school principal, coaches from little league baseball, football, Clay Chalkville High School and LaGrange.
During an emotional service, 40 people walked to the altar and committed their life to Christ, Core said. And, outside the church, a crowd of hundreds began an impromptu prayer.
“Just like the Lord said,” Core remarked, “Isaiah was going to save many lives. I didn’t think he was going to answer it this way, “but our ways are not his ways.”
Huffman’s Ward plans to host a preseason intramural game in honor of Isaiah for freshman and sophomores. It will be called the Core Invitational and will raise funds for scholarships.
“I know what type of kid he was,” Ward said. “He was a first class kid, a class act.”