Iris is an amazing woman who fills the room with energy as she talks about raising two boys single handedly while breaking the cycle of poverty. She is also the mother of Tre Boston, that’s Tre Boston who plays in the NFL for the LA Chargers, formerly with the Carolina Panthers.
No Shoes To Fill
Growing up, Iris lacked any positive role models. “I had no shoes to fill,” she explained. For that reason, she was determined that her two sons would lead a better life. “I knew I had to be the change. I broke the mold, but I always told them, ‘I want you to be better. Build a legacy. Go do great things.’”
She never hid the fact from them that they were poor. “It was kind of evident, from where we lived (in Fort Myers.)” Iris clarified, “I’ve always been honest with my boys.” She also made it clear to them, if they wanted an education, they were going to have to earn it. “I wasn’t being mean. The world is cruel, and when you give things to people, they don’t appreciate it as much. It’s different when you earn it and I wanted them to understand the difference. You see, I wasn’t out getting my hair or nails done. I didn’t have to be pretty for anyone, I always made sure that my boys looked better than me. I know a lot of parents who say ‘Oh, I don’t have money.’ If you have money to eat out for lunch, buy cigarettes, alcohol, or to go out with your friends, then you’ve got money to take care of your kids.” Iris did just that, and with every passing year their circumstances improved for the better.
It was often a struggle to stay afloat, but Iris did it all on her own, never using government assistance. Not only did she have a full-time job and two part-time jobs, she was going to college to boot. “The choices I made in my life are based on my sons, because they didn’t ask to be put on this earth, so they shouldn’t have to suffer, by my hands, or anybody else’s.” She recalls times when Tre was little and he would go to college classes with her, quietly sitting in the desk behind her. Even then, her professors respected her drive and determination. As Tre calls it, his mom’s “grind.”
Much of this taught Iris self-reliance. Because she didn’t want to take money away from the boys, she had to learn to do it all; from electrical work to plumbing, you name it. She recalls not having a water heater for several months and boiling water so they could bathe. “It’s not that I didn’t have the money for the water heater, it was the cost of the labor that was too much. So, I had to wait because Tre’s equipment and shoes came first. I learned to solder on and did the work myself. I wasn’t about to pay someone to do what I could learn to do. My boys didn’t have what they wanted, but without a doubt, by the Grace of God, they always had what they needed.”
From his mother’s example, Tre learned responsibility. Not only did he learn about paying the bills, but he learned about the cost of food and taking care of things. He would see his mother noticing little things in the car, like the “sounds to listen out for and maintenance,” and explaining to him the importance of taking care of the little things before they became a bigger problem. These lessons have stuck with Tre to this day. Wherever he goes, he is still sure to use a coupon or the Retail Me Not app.
Not only did Iris teach Tre about the small things, but she also taught him about choices and consequences by explaining different scenarios to him. “I told him that if somebody has drugs in the car, and you’re in the car, that’s constructive possession. You can still be arrested if the other person doesn’t speak up. If arrested, that goes on your record. No college football team wants to recruit anyone who has a criminal record. It just takes one person to ruin it for you.” Fortunately for Iris, Tre picks his friends well. He has the same friends today that he’s had since childhood.
One of the greatest lessons Tre learned from his mom was to get his education. She remembers constantly telling him, “You have to get your degree. You have to, because it’s the only thing in your life that you can earn that no one can take away. It’s yours.” The NFL to Iris is a perk, a bonus. What was most important was watching Tre graduate early so that he could enter the NFL Draft. “I remember when Tre called me because he wanted to enter the draft. I’m sure many moms and dads would have been happy. I was, and I am, but he had to keep his promise. That was to get his degree. Tre worked hard to keep his promise. I would call him at night and he’d be studying late. It made me proud.” Tre kept his word and graduated from the University of North Carolina.
Eye on the Prize
When Tre started playing football at 6 years old, Iris knew she would have to rearrange her schedule so she would always be there for her boys. During practice, she would help her younger son with homework or, if she was lucky, she would take a nap in the car. Iris’s family helped by watching the boys overnight, during the hours that she worked one job, but she made sure not to miss a moment of daylight hours with them. She knew they were her main job and one that she took seriously and with great pride.
It was evident to Iris that Tre and Ethan had talent and were destined for great things. In Pop Warner Football, she noticed the way Tre prowled with his eye always on the prize. When he was six years old, Iris told him that he was going to be in the NFL. Iris appreciates that he never doubted her words and trusted her. She taught him and his little brother to never accept less of themselves. “In his mind, there was never a can’t, it was always ‘I can. I will. I’m going to be.’ It was a self-professed prophecy. I spoke it into existence.”
But Tre was going to have to earn it because many of his coaches didn’t give him a lot of playing time during his early stages in Pop Warner; Iris believes this was because he didn’t have a dad or any uncles on the field. “Let my son play. I paid the same money as other parents,” Iris implored, but it fell on deaf ears.
When the coaches ignored her, she would tell them, “It’s okay. I’m going to have the last laugh. I’ll see you come signing day. Even better, I’ll see you in the draft.” She recalls how some coaches laughed at what she said. So Iris trained Tre to always keep his helmet on and to stand next to the coach, and to say “Put me in coach. I’ve got fresh legs. I’m ready. I’m ready.”
Of course, there are great coaches who make all the difference to the kids on their team. These coaches can make a life altering impact, and for that we should all be grateful.
Iris made sure Tre was ready for football by taking him to Terry Park. They would run around the perimeter of the baseball field several times to build endurance. Iris took him to Centennial Park at the foot of the bridge to run sprints, “He’d go, then I’d go, then he’d go. I would do it with him. He became so fast. That’s all we did, run, run, run, run, run.” The day came day that Tre finally ran faster than his mom and he was so happy and proud. She laughs as she fondly recalls that proud day.
Another time, Iris noticed Tre was losing time throwing the football because he was double pumping the ball and she couldn’t figure out why he was doing that. Then she realized, he was mimicking her when she was practicing with him. “I had to retrain him. I was like ‘Wow!’ he’s doing it because of me and I didn’t even know that. We as parents should watch what we do, what we say and do, because our kids are always paying attention. “
Not A House, But A Home
After a scare in Fort Myers, Iris decided to move her family to Cape Coral. The bank didn’t make it easy for her, but in typical Iris fashion, she didn’t give up. Iris had a mortgage on her Fort Myers house and had to prove she could afford two mortgages, and she did. “It was just so nice to be somewhere that’s safe. When you have small kids, that’s what you need. You need to know that they’re going to be okay. As a parent, you need that peace of mind.”
Cape Coral became a haven for her and the boys. Covering her face as she was tearing up, Iris explained, “During the ten years we lived in Fort Myers, we never made that house a home.” Iris added, “We may have moved, yet the friendships we made will last a lifetime. They are the ones who were with me since the beginning. They saw my struggles and their words and support helped me to persevere.”
Iris is the first one to admit she doesn’t know that much about football and only knows what Tre does. “I’m a Tre Boston fan, not a team fan.” Nevertheless, she still got caught up in the excitement when Tre’s team went to the Super Bowl two years ago, when he was with the Carolina Panthers and they played against the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. Unfortunately, the Panthers lost 24-10, but in Iris’ eyes, Tre was certainly a winner.
“We had a golden ticket, like Willy Wonka,” she says with a huge smile. “My youngest son Ethan and I were there. It was amazing. The halftime show was Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga sang the anthem.” But even so, it wasn’t so much about the Super Bowl, but about Tre in Iris’s mind. “It’s so amazing to see my baby reach his dream.”
Giving back seems to come naturally to Iris, and Tre, as they have been doing so since he was little. They hope to start a foundation in his name with the focus of educating kids and parents in the community on the importance of education, life skills and being coachable. In the meantime, Iris supports many non-profit organizations throughout Lee County, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Quality of Life Center. Additionally, she enjoys partnering with local law enforcement on educational safety initiatives in the community. Iris worked in the criminal justice and mental health sector for over 20 years combined. “It’s sad that jobs where people help “be the change” or help others are the most underappreciated and underpaid positions. I have the utmost respect for teachers, law enforcement and non-profits for this reason. Understand, I know that I could have moved sooner had the pay been better, but I chose a profession where I helped others. I have no regrets.”
During Christmas time, Iris went broke buying gifts for children and donating to Toys for Tots, the ACT Shelter and Olive Garden’s toy drive. She was carried away, forgoing the fact that her gym membership was due. But she would do it all again because she remembers times when she struggled and was only able to buy small gifts, socks and little chalk boards so her boys could have a Christmas. She worked diligently to ensure that never happened again.
“For me to go broke, over helping other people, I’ll do it. I’ll do it over again.” She is willing to help anybody. It doesn’t matter which organization, if Iris is passionate about it and she believes in their message, then she’ll help.
“We have a choice. We can continue being who people tell us we are, or choose to be the best that we can be. Not only for ourselves but for others.” Iris elaborates, “There are so many things that a parent can teach a child to protect them. It’s imperative to take the time to teach them how to treat others. I believe in the virtues of life. Others may not, but I’ve never been a follower. I lead by example and I choose to lead my sons in the right direction. It’s a choice. I’ve been wronged so many times in my life, but I don’t look at the problem. I look for the solution. It’s all about perspective.”
Iris says she texts both boys first thing in the morning and last thing at night. She spends as much time as possible with them, never letting more than three months go by without seeing Tre due to his schedule, and 3 weeks at most for Ethan. “They’re my love, my life, my world. They are my heroes.”
Her youngest son, Ethan, always requests not to be mentioned in articles. He likes his privacy. Iris laughs, “E is so smart. He’s going to do amazing things and empower so many people. How can I not mention him when he makes me so proud.” Iris respects his wishes, yet makes sure to let the world know that she has two amazing sons. Ethan attends college on the East Coast with minimal tuition cost due to earning several scholarships. She cherishes the opportunity to drive and see him on weekends.
Iris flies to wherever Tre is playing football. She tries to be at every other game. It’s important to her to support him. There was even a shout out on Instagram from Tre which read: “No matter what, my mom goes where I go.” Off season, he comes home and they spend their time together at the shooting range, playing putt-putt golf, batting cages or watching movies. Tre is also teaching his mom to play golf.
Tre wanted to buy a house for his mother, too, but Iris bought her third house before he got his bonus money, so he wouldn’t be able to. “He was so mad at me,” she says. “His job is not to take care of me. It’s my job to take care of him.”
Iris explained, “I don’t need to ask for anything, nor do I need anything. Tre surprises me all the time. He calls them blessings. He ensures that his little brother has the tools necessary to become successful and that’s what matters. I think of it as a lateral legacy. Tre is unselfish, he doesn’t wait for something to happen to make a difference.” Tre makes it a priority to invest in his brother’s future.
Last year, Iris proudly described how she walked Tre down the aisle when he married his college sweetheart, Cierra, who Iris describes as having the four B’s: beauty, body, brains and blessings. “He married the right one. They go to church. They talk a lot, and communicate really well. The focus is right.”
For the future, Iris hopes to get a house with a boat dock on a canal, with a pool. But one thing is certain; she will be buying it with her own hard-earned money. “I have pride, it’s my only fault, that’s not so bad, is it?”
Because Iris has been so busy teaching her children to spread their wings, it’s hard for her to think of her own future. “It’s crazy, because I raised my boys to dream big, and to go on and fulfill them. Not to have a plan B, to stay focused on plan A, so they had no distractions. Nobody taught me what to do once my boys left; my priority, to this day, is my kids.” Iris made it clear “They are my reason, my purpose, they are my plan A. For that reason, I will be making changes to ensure that I have the flexibility I need to travel and see both my sons.”