Elmore found a home
When Gaelin Elmore signed his National Letter of Intent to play football with the University of Minnesota last Wednesday, it was a moment that everyone in Somerset shared and reveled in.
Elmore isn’t shy about saying that the community has raised him and he wants to prove to everyone that he is worthy of the commitment they made to him.
When Elmore arrived in Somerset as a freshman, he had a bit of a temper and trust issues. But the people of Somerset saw beyond that. They saw an intelligent young man with an engaging personality. And when they saw that his family life was in shambles, the Somerset community stepped up to give Elmore a home.
Elmore’s father has been incarcerated several times for extended periods, leaving the young man with no place to live. Somerset coach Bruce Larson and his family became Elmore’s guardians.
While Elmore was growing into one of the top athletes in Wisconsin’s Class of 2014, his growth was not just in the athletic arena. He carries a 3.7 grade point average and is considered a positive leader among the student body.
Elmore’s first contact with Somerset was through Jay Emmert, who was coaching a travelling AAU youth basketball team. Elmore and his father, George, had just moved from Peoria, Ill., with George wanting to get his son away from the heavy gang influences in the area.
Emmert saw Elmore playing eighth grade basketball and asked if he’d like to join the AAU team. At first, Emmert would run to Hudson several times a weekend to pick up and deliver Gaelin. Soon, Emmert decided it would be easier for Gaelin to start spending weekends with the Emmerts.
Gaelin was getting extremely little family support as his father bounced from residence to residence. The Emmerts soon decided to have Gaelin live with them for several weeks and to find his father an apartment in Somerset.
Emmert said it was clear quite quickly that Elmore had special gifts.
“He came through Hudson with straight A’s on his report card, which was pretty impressive considering his living situation,” Emmert said, saying Gaelin also showed an artistic and creative side.
There were some early rough spots when Elmore was trying to fit into Somerset. Larson broke up a fight in a school lunch room between Elmore and another student during his freshman year.
“I said ‘you are not going to act like that.’ It surprised him. It was the first time anyone had told him that,” Larson said.
While Elmore was able to grow and flourish in Somerset, his father continued to struggle. When George was incarcerated, it meant Gaelin could end up in foster care unless someone stepped up. The Larsons became Gaelin’s guardians and he’s been a member of the family ever since.
Larson said Elmore lives under the same rules as his other children and has the same responsibilities, from shoveling snow to taking out the garbage.
Behind the scenes, people all over Somerset were stepping up to help take care of Elmore. People donated money to make sure he always had food and clothes and items he needed for school.
“That list of people is endless,” Larson said of those from the community who have helped. “It’s been a group effort by a ton of people.”
Elmore understands the rare commitment the community has made to him. He said that was one of the reasons he wanted to play at Minnesota, so people from Somerset could see him play. And also, so he would be close to the place he can call home.
“Everyone here has had a hand in me getting this,” Elmore said minutes after signing his letter of intent. “I’m happy I could prove them right.”
Elmore was a hot commodity as a college recruit, making visits to schools all over the Midwest, from Ohio State to Wisconsin to Nebraska.
While he had numerous scholarship offers, the Gophers were the favorite from Elmore’s first meeting with Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill. While other schools pressed him to change his commitment, Elmore never wavered. Elmore said he appreciated the honesty and frankness he received from the Gophers coaching staff.
“They’re down-to-earth, great people and that’s what we have here,” Elmore said.
Elmore will finish high school at the end of this quarter on April 1. He will enroll at the University of Minnesota on May 1 to begin taking classes and working with the football program.
Elmore said he will begin college undecided on his major, though he is leaning toward studying business. He said broadcasting is another career possibility that intrigues him.
Elmore will become the second former Spartan to play for the Gophers. Former Spartan fullback Tom Hennessey was a special teams standout for the Gophers from 2005-08.