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From civil war refugee to 49er hopeful

SANTA CLARA

Jehuu Caulcrick has faced bigger challenges.

Caulcrick is mired on the 49ers' depth chart and finding the practice-field repetitions hard to come by. Technically still a first-year player, he has yet to crack the 53-man roster for an NFL team, although this is his third year out of Michigan State. He played tailback in college, but is now busy learning to play fullback, a position better suited to his thick, 250-pound frame.

Yet it's all child's play to a man who had his childhood brutally taken from him.

"When I was younger I didn't know if I'd have the opportunity to even be alive the next day," Caulcrick, 26, said recently while sitting in the media trailer at 49ers headquarters. "It's something I definitely keep in the back of my head, because I truly believe it makes me a stronger person."

Caulcrick was a 6-year-old in Liberia when Africa's oldest republic was torn apart by civil war. He spent two years on the move, dodging bullets and ducking rebel soldiers as he and his extended family marched from refugee camp to refugee camp. His father would be murdered, and his mother was thousands of miles away — stuck in the U.S. without her children and without the necessary paperwork to retrieve them.

Before December 1989, Caulcrick had what he calls a "great childhood." His grandfather owned a video production company and his grandmother ran sort of a home-economics school for girls, and the family lived together in a large compound in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. Caulcrick remembers endless days of soccer at the big stadium down the street.

Then rumors began to spread about a looming conflict.

"You're a kid, you watch TV, you see these war movies and it looks cool," Caulcrick said. "So for a second, us kids, we were excited about it. We're like, 'Oh, yeah, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do that.'"

The reality check arrived in the form of Caulcrick's uncle, who had been captured, tortured and released by rebel forces. He warned the family to stay inside the house. Soon the capital was under siege and the pop-pop-pop of automatic gunfire became Liberia's soundtrack.


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