The Eagles' first-round draft pick arrived at the NovaCare Complex for the first time yesterday with a father who didn't look anything like him and, in fact, didn't even know him for the first eight years of his often turbulent life.

Jeremy Maclin, a star wide receiver during his two seasons at Missouri, met Jeff Parres when he joined a peewee football team in Kirkwood, Mo., at the age of 9.

"I've coached little league football for 20 years," Parres said. "It's my passion and I was coaching my older son's team. Jeremy joined the team when he was nine."

Parres, a urologist, said it was evident early that Maclin had special athletic talent.

"We play in the city of St. Louis, and it's a pretty competitive league," Parres said. "You could see Jeremy was good. He was one of the two or three better athletes in his age group."

In time, something else besides Maclin's immense talent on a football field became obvious to Parres and his eldest son, Tyler.

"On weeknights, we'd take him home after practice and there were times when there was no one at home and the doors would be locked, and he'd have to climb through the windows to get in," Parres said. "And then he wouldn't have any dinner sometimes. Those were the tough times."

Difficult times that evolved into a life-altering experience for both Maclin and the Parres family. At first, Maclin spent weekends and summers with the Parres family, which also includes his wife, Cindy, and the family's youngest son, Mitchell.

"Jeremy has never known his father," Parres said. "His mom has had some difficulties in life off and on. Really, from the beginning Jeremy was spending a lot of time with us. He would spend weekends, holidays, and then within a year or two, he was spending summers and pretty much any free time he had."

Maclin doesn't deny the difficulties of his childhood. He said his mother, Cleo Maclin King, had a drinking problem. He said he knew his father, but he has no desire to associate with him.

"If he wasn't there to begin with, he's of no importance to me," Maclin said. "I don't know how any man can leave his family like that. I don't talk to him. I don't care to see him. Growing up with nobody is hard on anybody. My mother's drinking problem made things a little rough, and I didn't live in the best neighborhood. Add all those things up, and it can take a toll on you."

The greatest support from Maclin's biological family came from his two older brothers, Andre, 28, and Roshon, 24.

"My oldest brother [Andre] went to college and did some things," Maclin said. "My middle brother kind of went the other way. He had everybody pulling for him and never really did anything. He's a lot better now. He has a family, and he provides for them. His life is on track now. I got to see both viewpoints, and they are both my role models in a way. I saw both paths."

Parres said it was Andre Maclin who called their home periodically to ask if Jeremy could spend time with them. By his sophomore year at Kirkwood High School, Maclin was no longer making visits to the Parres family - he was living with them. The Parres supplied him with a cell phone and a car, and made him live by the same rules as their two other sons. They also worked on patching the relationship between Jeremy and his mother.

Maclin said his relationship with his biological mother is better now.

"I think we're a lot closer now since we don't live together," he said. "I think she's a lot better. That relationship is a lot more stable."

But Maclin knows the opportunity he was given by the Parres family is a big reason why he is now an NFL first-round pick with a chance to become a star wide receiver.

"There are a lot of people in my life who have influenced me to get to this point," he said. "Obviously, the family I live with. They definitely played a big part in why I'm here. I learned a lot of things from my real family, too. Obviously the one above is the real reason why I'm here in the first place. All those people prepared me."

Jeff Parres said there was never any long debate in his household about taking in Jeremy Maclin.

"I look back at it and think, 'How could you not?' " Parres said. "Fortunately, we have the means to do it. When you run across somebody's life whose isn't as all tucked in and as perfect as yours, I don't know how you can turn your back on them."

Yesterday, Maclin had a chance to say thank you to his surrogate father, and he did so by bringing him along for his first NFL ride.

"This is a thrill," Parres said. "The Eagles for this community are what the [baseball] Cardinals are to the St. Louis community. And I think the fervor here might even beat out the Cardinals. It's just a great opportunity for Jeremy."

Contact staff writer Bob Brookover
at 215-854-2577