One look at Jon Feliciano, and you would think the 6″5′, 320 pound, heavily tattooed offensive lineman was destined to play in the NFL. But his story defies any blueprint. Jon didn’t even start playing football until 9th grade, and there was a steep learning curve.
“The first day we got there, they didn’t have enough pads for everybody,” said the offensive lineman. “I got pads because of my size. I’d never played football before but my friend Cody, we rode bikes together to the school, he actually played, so he showed me how to put my pads on.”
Jon grew up in Davie, Florida at Kings Manor Trailer Park, which was anything but royal.
“There were a lot of drugs around, kids just getting into trouble doing stupid stuff,” said Feliciano.
There were times when Jon’s trailer didn’t have electricity or running water. In 10th grade, Jon’s mother and brother moved to New York. Feliciano stayed behind to pursue his dream of playing football at the University of Miami.
“At that point, I moved in with my friend Sean, and his family let me stay there,” said Feliciano. “I always felt like a burden because they lived in a single wide trailer which was small, the ceilings were small. I would hit my head on their fan and I had to duck through. We had like, I would sleep on the floor in a twin bed. It sounds rough, sounds sucky, but I was with my best friend most of the time, so we made the most of it.
With the help of Sean Cole’s support and friendship, Feliciano would eventually realize his dream, and was a four-year starter for the Hurricanes.
“He was my best friend,” said Feliciano. “I’ve known him since I was 10. Really, he’s one of the reasons I’m here right now.”
Jon had pushed through some tough times at a young age. But nothing could prepare him for the news he’d receive during his second season in the NFL.
“It was August 18th,” recalled the then Oakland offensive lineman. “It was a preseason game, we were playing the Packers. I talked to him right before the game. He went out that night, he was drinking, and he ended up crashing into a canal in Florida. He was in a coma for a good six months before he ended up passing December 23rd of 2016.”
So now, Jon is left with memories and tattoos he shared with Sean.
“It’s called born sinner,” said Feliciano as he described his tattoo. “That was mine and Sean’s favorite song around the time he passed. It was like he was a born sinner, but he’ll die better than that.”
Jon said there wasn’t a chance he would’ve made it out of his hometown without Sean.
“No,” said Feliciano. “No chance, no chance. No.”
Jon and his wife had a child the May following Sean’s death. They named their daughter Sean Cole, to honor his best friend.