Tony A. Gaskins Jr., the son of a former pastor, was raised in a loving home along with a younger sister in a small central Florida town where most people believed that there were only a few avenues one could take in life. The common belief was that one could either end up overworked and underpaid, sell drugs or become a professional athlete. Tony escaped the cycle that entrapped so many of his peers and was awarded a full collegiate football scholarship.
It was in college where Tony would run into trouble. All on his own for the first time and 1,000 miles from home, Tony found himself in a mess. Women became his biggest vice, closely followed by the lure of fast money. Tony began selling drugs from his dorm room and stealing on weekends while juggling women somewhere in between. After three years of barely staying afloat in his responsibilities as a student athlete, his coach decided to release him from the team. One might think that this circumstance would have been a clear wakeup call, but Tony was unreceptive. Instead, he moved back to Florida and continued to sell drugs and juggle women. He was living like the Prodigal Son, ignoring his natural gifts that were waiting to be unleashed.
It wasn’t long after relocating to Tampa, Florida that Tony would cross paths with a young lady who would influence positive change in his life. She later became his wife. Tony was trying to balance his lifestyle of selling drugs and living a lie while keeping his wife. That balancing act wouldn’t sustain for too long. At 23 years old, Tony was married and had a newborn son who arrived 10 weeks early and weighed only two pounds at birth. Tony decided to give drug dealing one last shot after a long hiatus. He was desperate to find a way to provide for his new family. This time would be the last. No less than a few weeks in his risky lifestyle, Tony’s wife decided she’d had enough and she left him. To add insult to injury, Tony was robbed two days later by a group of local enemies. Tony found himself grappling with $30,000 in debt, poor credit and nothing to call his own, a marriage that was hanging on by a thread and a son in the intensive care unit. It was at this point that Tony finally realized the error of his ways. He fell on his face and cried out to God. He rededicated his life to Christ and vowed to forever live a life of service from that day forward. Although there would be trying times and stumbling blocks in the road, Tony kept his word to God.