When Marcel Joly arrived in Maryland, it was him, his second-youngest sister and his dad.
Joly's mom, Jeanne Emmie Basille, remained in Haiti with two sisters while she worked through the immigration paperwork required to move to the United States. Joly was 10 and missing a large part of his support system.
"It wasn't easy," said Joly, a Forestville, Md., prep. "I came up and my mother and other sisters were still down there. It was just me and my second-youngest sister. We had basically the whole family back in Haiti.
"My mother, that's what she wanted for me and my sister. We came here and did what we were supposed to do. And today, God bless us, we're a whole family in America."
It took eight years for the family to reunite in Maryland. Today, Joly will sign off on a future that will give him a chance to play football at the highest level and a free college education. But, yes, it will force him to move away.
Joly, a 5-11, 180-pound cornerback prospect, will sign with the Iowa Hawkeyes. Joly played running back and cornerback for Forestville, totaling 994 total yards and six TDs. Joly also excelled as a punt and kick returner with four returns for touchdown.
Joly played soccer in Haiti and said that background translated to quick footwork in football.
"Iowa definitely wants me to return kicks," Joly said. "I really enjoy it. [Chicago Bears return specialist] Devin Hester is one of my favorite players. I watch him a lot. Watching him play, he's exciting. I want to try to do that."
Iowa assistant coach Chris White built a relationship with Joly. Trust was big for this commitment. Joly has had his mom, who speaks Creole, the native Haitian language, home with him for just a year. Plus, Forestville is 919 miles from Iowa City, a 13-hour drive.
"He's a pretty cool guy. I could relate with him on a lot of stuff," Joly said. "He was always checking with me, seeing how my family and I are doing. I felt comfortable with coach White and all the coaches."
And, yes, that includes Iowa defensive coordinator and secondary coach Phil Parker, whose status as a "yeller" has reached legendary proportions. Parker is up front about this, Joly said.
"I did my research on him," Joly said. "He's a pretty good guy. Tough coach, but that just means it'll all be worth it."
Joly also had offers from Maryland, Vanderbilt and Temple. He might've ended up with more, but instead of attending camps last summer, Joly took a job at Wendy's to help support his family.
"I hadn't seen my mom in eight years," he said. "I just wanted to have some pocket money in my hands, so when mom did get here, we could celebrate, go out to eat and welcome her to America, things like that.
"It was a long time since I'd seen her. My sisters didn't want me to do that [skip camps to build a football profile], but I told them, and my coaches agreed, that it was something I felt like I needed to do."
More time away and more sacrifice is ahead. This morning, though, Joly and his mom will enjoy a signing day ceremony at Forestville.
"I told my mom it's going to be for the better," Joly said. "I didn't want to stay too close to home. I felt like going to Iowa with coach White by my side, he'd look out for me. I told her that and she was OK with it, as long as I keep up with my school work. She's big on that."
Joly laughed at the idea of his mom being by his side for national signing day.
"That was one of my wishes, too," he said. "I didn't want her to still be in Haiti and just hear about it."