For a 22-year-old, CJ Stroud has plenty of pressure on his shoulders. The California native was the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, landing him a spot on the Houston Texans as their Quarterback. Stroud had a history-making rookie season in the league after playing for Ohio State, where he was listed as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy in two consecutive seasons. Like many great athletes, CJ Stroud’s parents are partially to thank for his success, though the roles they’ve played in the young athlete’s life are very different.

“My life has been like a roller coaster. It’s been up and down. I’ve been through hell and back. I’ve been through so much in my life. I had to grow up early. I had to grow up really fast,” Stroud once said of his tumultuous past. His father, Coleridge Bernard Stroud III, was incarcerated when his son was just 13, amid an emotional divorce from the NFLer’s mom, Kimberly Stroud, in 2012. The couple was married in 1997 and welcomed four children – Isaiah, Asmar, Ciara and CJ – together; read on to learn how they’ve each helped their son on his way to superstardom.

Coleridge Bernard Stroud III Introduced His Son to Football

CJ Stroud Parents pictured: CJ Stroud
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

When CJ was young, his father worked as a pastor at Life Application Christian Center, which Coleridge and Kimberly helped build. He turned to faith after facing drug charges over two decades ago, allowing him to focus on his family and turning his son onto football. Unfortunately, the Stroud family patriarch was convicted of carjacking, kidnapping, robbery and misdemeanour sexual battery connected to a drug-related incident, leaving him uneligible for parole until 2040.

“[He] spent nearly 20 years as a successful businessman, pastor, homeowner, husband, and father,” Sports Illustrated wrote of the situation, which took place amid the Stroud’s divorce. “[His] life spun out of control again and he began using illegal drugs again after more than 20 years of sobriety.” While the Ohio State alum used to feel a lot of resentment toward Coleridge, he now uses the trauma to spread awareness and help others.

What Has CJ Stroud Said About His Dad’s Incarceration?

“People slip up… 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,” the Quarterback told The Columbus Dispatch in 2022. “I think I thrive now at this age, just 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, crediting Coleridge’s religious influence.

That same year, the record-breaker appeared on The Pivot Podcast, where he reflected on losing his dad’s presence during such crucial years. “My pops, he was my best friend, to have your best friend be snatched like that, it was tough. I just look at the things my dad did that were positive, but for a while, I hated my pops, for real. Like, man, how could you leave me like that? When I talk to him now, I don’t hold [any] ill will. I tell him ‘I love you man,’” Stroud shared.

Elsewhere, Coleridge’s incarceration has inspired his youngest son to speak out on prison reform. “I got to talk to my dad a little bit this week and I’m praying to God that something can happen that he can get out and come to one of these games,” Stroud said during a press conference last year. “Our criminal justice system isn’t right… It’s not just my dad’s situation but the whole criminal justice system is corrupt. I’ve been watching videos in Mississippi and some of the prisons have rats and roaches and don’t get me wrong. Criminals should do their time, but they’re still humans. I just wanted to shine light on that,” the 22-year-old continued.

Kimberly Stroud Worked Tirelessly as a Single Mom

CJ Stroud’s parents’ divorce brought with it plenty of change, especially financially. Now having to support herself and four children alone, Kimberly went above and beyond to ensure her talented son had the support necessary to shine on and off the field. Before he found NFL fame, she worked as a property manager at a storage facility to provide for her family, and wasn’t too proud to accept help from others. “We had a lot of support from a lot of different coaches on travel-ball teams. It took a village. Because he was so talented, there were so many people that kind of rallied around him and kept him involved,” the Stroud matriarch revealed. “There were times where I couldn’t pay for certain equipment that he needed, but they would give C.J. the equipment anyway. But it was a hard time for CJ from seventh grade into high school.”

Even when he was struggling, Kimberly’s son didn’t want to stress her out, as ESPN reminds us, not telling her about the cleats he had outgrown and instead suffering with blisters. “You’re not gonna have to do this forever. I just want you to know that,” Stroud told his birth giver after having to downsize their family home four times. When speaking with Sports Illustrated, Kimberly praised him for choosing to rise above. “He had a choice when his father went away. 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,” she reflected. “I sit and I’m amazed at how resilient he is. CJ is the most amazing human I have ever met.”

As Stroud continues to shine on the field, Kimberly is build an empire in her own right, starting with The Mom’s POV Show. In November 2023 she announced a new podcast with Monica Daniels – mother of Arizona Cardinals offensive tackle Paris Johnson Jr, who played with CJ at Ohio State. “She’s one of my closest friends, and she’s going through the same thing as me. She’s incredible and so strong. She’s always encouraging me and vice versa,” Kimberly said of her co-host.

The Quarterback Launched a Charitable Foundation With His Mom in 2023

Around the same time, Kimberly took on the role of president of the CJ Stroud Foundation. “We’re building a legacy within the community. When people see [his] name, they’ll know that [we] not only care about football but also about them,” she explained to WSYX. Their first official event, Quarterbacking Hunger, was a huge success last year, providing 100 single mothers in the Houston area with turkeys, dinner fixings, gloves, hats and other essentials.

“There’s a lot of different passions that [CJ] has. [Helping] single moms [is one of them] since I was a single mom; we all started crying [during the event] because a mom, her husband’s in prison,” Kimberly said of the emotional moment that hit close to home. I’m really grateful that [he] has taken the steps to be a young voice in our generation who sheds light on some of the issues that go on in this world.” Even though CJ Stroud’s parents couldn’t make their marriage work, it’s evident both still feel a lot of pride for all he’s accomplished so far.