Motivated by His Dad’s Story, C.J. Stroud Advocates for Prison Reform

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Jan. 8 2024, Published 3:21 p.m. ET

C.J. Stroud on the sideline in a Houston Texans uniform
Source: Getty Images

Quarterback C.J. Stroud is already making his mark on the NFL in his rookie season, having racked up more than 4,000 passing yards as he helped the Houston Texans reach the playoffs for the first time since 2019. But he just wants his dad, who's currently serving a 38-year prison sentence, to be cheering him on from the sidelines.

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“I’m praying to God that something can happen that he can get out and come to one of these games, man,” Stroud told reporters in November 2023, per For the Win. “I’ve been praying for him a lot, and I didn’t want to make this public, but our criminal justice system isn’t right. And it’s something that I need to probably be a little more vocal about because what he’s going through is not right.”

C.J. Stroud’s dad was sentenced to prison when the future NFL star was a teen.

C.J.’s parents are Kimberly Stroud and Coleridge Bernard Stroud III. They got married in 1997 and welcomed children Isaiah, Asmar, Ciara, and C.J. before 2012, when Kimberly filed for divorce, according to People. Coleridge, a former pastor, was sentenced to prison a few years later when C.J. was just 13 years old.

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C.J. Stroud in a Houston Texans uniform
Source: Getty Images

According to CNN, Coleridge pled guilty in 2015 to charges of carjacking, kidnapping, robbery, evading an officer with reckless driving, and misdemeanor sexual battery. He received a 38-year sentence because he was a repeat offender.

At a 2018 appeal, Coleridge said that his life “spun out of control” after he and Kimberly broke up in 2012 and that he “began using illegal drugs again after more than 20 years of sobriety,” as Sports Illustrated reported in a 2022 profile of C.J.

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Meanwhile, the young athlete had a choice to make, as Kimberly told Sports Illustrated: “He was going to let that motivate him and be the best, or he was going to succumb to it and become a statistic of a kid whose parent did something they shouldn’t.”

Now C.J. is talking up prison reform and “how we can get things fixed.”

In February 2023, when he was still an Ohio State quarterback, C.J. attended a REFORM Alliance event with Kim Kardashian, then-Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, and Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin.

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“Was blessed to be able to have a great dinner the other night to discuss and shine light on prison reform and our corrupt criminal justice system and how we can get things fixed,” he tweeted at the time. “Was able to explain my story and how the issue has [affected] my life and so many more families around the country.”

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REFORM Alliance — which Rubin launched with Jay-Z, Meek Mill, and other founders in 2019 — seeks to “transform probation and parole by changing laws, systems, and culture to create real pathways to work and wellbeing,” according to its website.

“People slip up,” C.J. told The Columbus Dispatch in September 2022. “People make mistakes. As I’m getting older, I’m realizing how tough it is to be a man — not only a man, but a Black man in our communities.”

But the quarterback said he was thriving because he had an understanding “that doing the right thing is the right way and letting God lead your life is the best way.”

“That’s what I learned from my father,” he added.

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