ITHACA, N.Y. (WBNG) Opportunity - a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. For Owego native Will Gladney, circumstances he couldn't control early in life made for difficult situations, but that hasn't held him back from success.
Gladney was born in Binghamton and has six siblings. He says he and his younger sister were often together during struggles within his household. "Some nights we would have to leave the house at 3 a.m., because they were sneaking in to get at our mom...it wasn't fair," explained Gladney.
Since around the age of four, Gladney said he moved around to more than 25 different group homes in the Southern Tier.
Through his struggles, there was football. Gladney said he was introduced to the game in 7th grade. Two grades later he began ninth grade at Binghamton High School, playing football for the Patriots.
"Coach Dolan the wide receivers coach at Binghamton reached out and said, 'I want you to come play for us,'" said Gladney. "I was like nahh, I want to do my own thing. Then he really pushed me and he brought me to a 7-on-7 in Cortland. I remember scoring four touchdowns, and this was something I realized I wanted to do," said Gladney. "Then I played in ninth grade. In the last game I was supposed to start in, I didn't go to school that day and they said you're not going to play. From there on out, I didn't go to school altogether."
Gladney said it was a low point for him.
"Deep down inside I had all my coaches at Binghamton telling me I had a great opportunity with football, and If I go to school it could all go together and I could get a scholarship somewhere. I had all that going on, but then I didn't want to go to school at the same time," admitted Gladney. "I never had that many people around, I was always independent so school was never a thing for me. It was a really low time for me," he said.
"My receiver's coach was really looking forward to him being something here at Binghamton," said Binghamton High School Head Football Coach, Mike Ramil.
He remembers skipping school one day while realizing the opportunity he was missing out on. That same day he found out he was moving from Binghamton to a group home in Owego.
"I had to pretend I was mad. I wasn't mad, I was excited a fresh start here we go! That's what I wanted," said Gladney.
So it was off to Owego, where he would play football for the Indians. His stats soared and he was recognized as an all-state player multiple years.
"I remember the first game at Owego my sophomore year we played Corning," recalled Gladney. "I scored two touchdowns there and remembering beating them, I just knew I can keep on going with this. It wasn't just a fluke or a one year thing."
Then another shakeup.
“When I got taken out the foster home in Owego, I went to Elmira," said Gladney. "I had to drive from Elmira to Owego, and I had to wake up early just to get to school."
Little did Gladney know, the move would be one that would later influence another change, one that would give him a forever home. The assistant general manager of the group home in Owego, Marc Brainard, would adopt him into his family.
Gladney has a tattoo on his left wrist that reads in cursive, "WBG" for William Brainard Gladney. Underneath it has the day he was adopted June 1, 2016.
Gladney now had parental figures, another sibling and a known gift on the football field, but where would he be able to continue his career on the gridiron?
"So I had a few D1 interests, until they saw my 9th grade year at Binghamton," said Gladney. "Once they showed them my transcript they backed off, Ithaca showed interest."
At first Gladney said he was stuck on not being able to play at a D1 school, but later realized how perfect of a fit it was.
"It's home...safeness, future and opportunity."
Reece Petty, Ithaca College Football Wide Receivers coach said he has coached Division 1 players, and Gladney ranks up there with some of the best."
So with his skills, another opportunity presents itself at Will Gladney's door, playing in the 59th Cortaca Jug at home, Butterfield Stadium. Ithaca has lost this historic game the past seven years.
“I don't like losing, my teamates don't, my coaches don't," said Gladney.
Last year the wideout recorded 138 receiving yards and scored twice at Cortland. He says this year he's ready to go.
"I don't get intimidated. I respect everybody but i don't fear anyone either," explained Gladney. "When I get on that football field it's whoever brings it that day."
That day is this Saturday November 11. Kickoff is at noon. You can stream it live here.
Whether he wins or loses on the field, whether he succeeds in the game of life or not, he abides by things happening for a reason, "I'm a believer that everything happens for a reason, and my struggles have led me to where I'm at today and my success so far," said Gladney. "I just keep on fighting off so I remember the struggles. I don't want to go back there, I have something to prove all the time and that's what keeps me going."