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Mother of Lions' Tyrell Crosby grappled in trenches financially to see children prosper

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

As a divorced mother of four, Susan McCarver had some obstacles to overcome in trying to raise her children. In 2000, she moved from her hometown of Bountiful, Utah in hopes of finding better opportunities for her family.

The move put them closer to McCarver’s sister in Henderson, Nevada, but things still weren’t easy. She had to work several jobs to try to make ends meet and to provide for the children: Josh, Teesha and twins Sydnee and Tyrell.

When times are tight, one of a mother’s greatest talents is keeping the children oblivious to the financial struggles she is having.

“It would have been better with two parents. I just did what most parents would do: I made sure they had sports,” McCarver said. “Every (single) parent trying to do it on their own tries to balance both roles.

Susan McCarver, center, surrounded by children, from left, Teesha Crosby, Josh McCarver, Tyrell Crosby and Sydnee Crosby.

“I’m proud of it. You make good choices and just do the right things.”

As Mother’s Day approaches, McCarver beams with pride at how her children turned out. Josh played basketball at Sacramento State and professionally overseas. Teesha recently earned her college degree in elementary education and Sydnee works with special-needs adults.

The baby boy, Tyrell Crosby, grew to 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds and is in his third season with the Lions after being drafted in the fifth round in 2018. After a successful college career at Oregon, Crosby came into his own last season at right tackle, playing in all 16 games, including five starts.

Crosby, 24, recalls his mother’s sacrifice when they were children and he has an appreciation for what she went through to provide for them. McCarver started working in medical billing but was able to find a better job as a credit manager for a construction supply company.

Following the recession in 2008, she lost her job and the family sometimes struggled.

“The older I got, I knew sometimes based on how much food was in the fridge that mom’s work was doing well because of bonuses,” Crosby said. “I recognized it and there were a lot of times where I knew I felt bad, so I didn’t eat a lot. That was hard on her to make sure I was fed.

“There were times I spent two or three days at a friend’s house to help ease the financial burden, so she didn’t have to worry about feeding me and it would be easier on her.”

By the time he was a sophomore at Green Valley High School, Crosby was 6-3, 270 and developing as a standout offensive lineman. Although he was getting free lunch, it wasn’t enough to get him through the school day. His football coach, Brian Castro, figured out how he could fill some of the void, providing some sustenance in his office.

Every little bit helped, even if it was just peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches, but at first, Crosby was hesitant to accept the help.

“It took me a while to push my ego aside and put away my pride. The tiny lunches wouldn’t fill me up,” Crosby said. “Another kid and I would go and make two or three PB&J’s in coach’s office to go with our lunch to get us through the day. He just made sure we were getting enough food.”

The oldest child, Josh McCarver, recalled that there were tough times when they were younger but said his mother found ways to provide and that there weren’t many times that the children went without. He knew that she sometimes worked a second job to ensure that there was enough for everyone.

Tyrell Crosby was drafted by the Lions in the fifth round in 2018.

“Everybody seemed OK for the most part. We knew we didn’t have everything, but we always were content and had enough; we had what we needed,” Josh said. “You look back and you realize a lot of kids had more than we did, but she worked so hard that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

“We had an Xbox and games. We had stuff but that was because she was busting her (butt) and not being lazy. I know personal friends who had it a lot harder. We had a single-parent household.”

Juggling it all

McCarver saw the benefits that sports could have for her children and got Josh involved with basketball and karate, Teesha in cheerleading and Sydnee in cheer and tennis. With only a five-year age difference between Josh and Tyrell, and having them in different sports, it made for a zigzag routine to get them all to practice, while balancing work.

“It was important to me to have them involved in stuff. The girls were supportive to go to the boys’ games and there were conflicts in the schedule with Ty’s football practices and the and girls’ activities,” McCarver said. “We did a lot of driving in our minivan and their stuff was just in the car. We’d make meals on Sunday and heat them up during the week. I’d pick them up after work and take them to practice and make it a routine. We just managed.

“There were times it was difficult nights and a crazy schedule, and I’d tell myself it’s worth it. Sometimes, I didn’t feel like doing it but it’s much better than having kids that might have gotten in trouble. I would stay focused that way.”

This is the Henderson, Nevada apartment Susan McCarver and four children lived in after moving from Utah.

Adding to the complexity, the family moved three times in a six-year span, including a two-bedroom apartment, where the boys were rooming together and McCarver was with the girls. It was all an effort to stay within the boundaries of their preferred school district, so they could have the best opportunities.

It was a somewhat transient lifestyle, and they bounced around so much that Josh thought it was the way things were supposed to work.

“I don’t know if it sounds bad, but I thought that’s what people did. Every year or two, it was, ‘Where are we (moving) this time?’” I thought that was normal,” he said. “I didn’t know people stayed in the same house for 20 years. It wasn’t traumatic, though.”

In 2008, they moved to a rental house that was very close to Green Valley and the children could walk to school every day. That took some of the pressure off of McCarver and in the midst of the recession, she was out of work for nine months.

She scrambled to find short-term jobs — as a personal assistant, in a psychiatry office, and did accounting — to find a way to keep things together.

Giving back to Mom

Through all their trials, McCarver worked hard to make sure that they’d become productive adults. The close-knit nature of living in close quarters and having to make it all work helped them to appreciate each other and become their own support group.

“We’ve been really good as a team and I’m proud that they’re emotional adults who I don’t have to worry about. I know they’re going to make good choices or learn from the bad ones,” McCarver said. “That’s the most rewarding thing for me — when I see how they are as adults. It’s amazing to have someone in a position to help. That’s as rewarding as watching them be good people.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Tyrell wanted to make sure that his mom would have everything she needed, so he bought a new freezer and filled it with meats and got whatever favorite foods she wanted for the house.

As his mother had provided for him when he was younger, he wanted to return the favor when things got tough. It was a juxtaposition in all that the family had been through in their early years.

“After I did that, I remember her saying that was the most food she’s ever had in a house she’s lived in (as an adult),” Tyrell said.

Over the years, the children have teamed to show grand gestures of thanks — including buying a car for her — to celebrate the virtues that their mother instilled in them.

Because of the pandemic, this year will be tougher, but they know it's not just about the bigger shows of gratitude — sometimes, just being together is enough. 

The next stage

McCarver was 20 years old when she had Josh and she became a grandmother at age 40. She didn’t think she was quite ready, but she’s eased into the role with the same success she had as a mother.

With the arrival of Josh’s second child and Teesha’s first in 2018, she had two more grandchildren, born six days apart, and she’s able to impart her wisdom as a grandmother.

“It’s this joy that you can’t even describe. You love them like I didn’t think I could love anyone more,” McCarver said. “I couldn’t tell you how wonderful it is. They’re the most wonderful creatures. I feel blessed to have them.”

Things have come full-circle and Josh is experiencing the joys of parenthood and building on the legacy of love that his mother created.

As he reflects on what he learned, he sees how far they all came and how things could have turned out much differently.

“One of the biggest things I think about it is that I was fortunate and got a full-ride and played in France for a while. One of my sisters is graduating from college and going to be a teacher. Sydnee is working with special-needs adults and giving back in that way,” Josh said. “If we were all troubled kids, kicked out of schools and getting in drug or gang problems, people wouldn’t blame you, because that stuff happens.

“For all of us to have more opportunities than a vast majority of other kids — that’s what blows my mind in the whole situation…I thought, ‘She’s got to have a clone running around. We all should have been statistics and we’re all doing well in our own regard.”

That’s the best a mother could hope for.

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard