For eight years, Lisa and David Born tried to have a child. Each time she got pregnant, a miscarriage followed.
Her heart broke every time she lost a baby, she said.
"We kept praying that we would have just one child," Lisa said.
They did: on Nov. 13, 1990, when David James Born came into the world.
"Ever since, the sun has risen and set for us on our boy," she said.
Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke might say the same of Born. Now 6-foot-8 and 325 pounds, Born plays left guard on an offensive line that has consistently given Heinicke great protection and allowed the Monarchs to average 49.5 points per game last season.
Colonial Athletic Association coaches judged Born to be the best blocker on the nation's best Football Championship Subdivision offense in 2012.
Deceptively mobile and quick, Born holds off would-be tacklers with long, powerful arms. Scouts from more than a dozen NFL teams visited ODU this summer to watch Born, left tackle Jack Lowney and right tackle D.J. Morell.
"They're all big," offensive coordinator Brian Scott said. "They've all good. They're all legitimate NFL prospects"
True to his California roots, Born is the most eclectic of the offensive linemen.
His father is a former surfer from Orange County, Calif. He works construction by day and, as a young man, played guitar in a band by night. His mother is a librarian.
The couple moved from Southern California to Wyoming, where his father's band, Standby, once was the opening act for Iron Butterfly. They lived in Anchorage for a few years before finally settling in Bakersfield, Calif.
While his teammates play video games, Born watches foreign films or, like his father, plays the guitar. He is quiet, humble and speaks in a distinctly California style.
"He's West Coast laid back," Scott said. "He's California cool all the way."
His road to stardom at ODU has been pitted with struggles, the most challenging a staph infection last winter that required months of treatment, left him bedridden and knocked him out of offseason workouts for nearly five months
ODU coach Bobby Wilder told Lisa Born, as her son was at his worst, that he would turn this setback into a comeback.
And he has.
Bakersfield is a conservative community of about 400,000 people 90 minutes north of Los Angeles. David and Lisa Born have a large extended family in Bakersfield that dotes on their only child.
"By the time he was in kindergarten, he was a head taller than everyone," David Born said of his son. "In the fourth grade, he and I were sharing clothes, and I was 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds.
"When we signed him up for YMCA football, he was twice as big as the other kids. The parents didn't like that. Their kids would bounce off of him. So we pulled him out and said, 'Let's just wait until high school.' "
By sixth grade, Born knew he would be a football player. "Momma," Lisa recalls him saying, "someday, I'm going to be a (San Diego) Charger."
He quickly became a star at West High School, where he blocked for future Chargers running back Ryan Mathews.
As a senior, Born was rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com. He had offers from Nebraska and Colorado, but held out over the winter hoping UCLA would offer him.
"I always wanted to be a Bruin," he said. But as signing day approached, not only did UCLA not offer him a scholarship, but the other offers also had disappeared. Late in the process, he accepted a scholarship from Sacramento State, an FCS school.
His parents were thrilled because they did not have the money to send him to college. But Born wasn't happy playing at Sacramento State.
"I kept thinking, what if?" he said.
Born redshirted as a freshman, then asked his father if he could transfer to Bakersfield Community College.
"I was very upset," Born said of his son's decision. "He gave up a $100,000 scholarship."
But he agreed to pay his son's tuition, and Born starred at Bakersfield, graduating in the fall semester, earning a degree after just three semesters and a summer session.
He had scholarship offers from a dozen schools, including Texas-El Paso and Texas-San Antonio, now members of Conference USA.
ODU's Scott, whose program was entering its third season, saw a tape of Born. When he called, the Bakersfield coach told him " 'Don't even bother,' " Scott said. "He's going to a bigger school."
But Scott persuaded Born to allow a home visit, where he and his parents got won over by Wilder's sales pitch.
"We had met with many coaches," Lisa Born said. "Bobby Wilder was the only one who talked about family and education first. He said if David isn't going to be happy at Old Dominion, then I don't want him to come there.
"He knows how much David means to us."
Born arrived on campus in January 2011 as the Monarchs were preparing for their first CAA season. He was a starter from his first day. He was a second-team All-CAA choice last season and made the all-academic team two years in a row.
Born dislocated the ring finger on his left hand last season against Delaware and played the final five games with two fingers taped together.
He had surgery in mid-December, and got on a plane the next day for two weeks at home for Christmas break. All seemed well.
ODU associate athletic director for sports medicine Marty Bradley said when Born came back to Norfolk, the finger was swollen. A staph infection had set in and had spread to his bones.
"Bone infections take a long time to get rid of and are difficult to get rid of," Bradley said.
Doctors inserted a PICC line in his arm so that he could administer antibiotics into his body over a long period of time. For more than two months, Born carried a small ball containing antibiotics around campus as he went to class.
The antibiotics eventually killed the staph infection, but also most of the good bacteria in his digestive tract. By early March, he was unable to hold food down.
Bradley called Lisa Born on a Friday and said maybe you should come see your son.
"He was sick," Bradley said. "But more than being physically sick, this had worn on him mentally."
Sunday morning at 6, she was on a plane. In the four days before she arrived, Born had lost 11 pounds.
"His father kept telling me, 'Just bring him home and let's take care of him here,' " she said. "But he's a really strong kid and recovered pretty quickly."
She took care of David for a week. Born was tested for an outbreak of C. difficile, a bacterial infection that can be fatal, but the test was negative.
"I was pretty sick," Born said. "I was bedridden for a couple of days before she came out. She really helped me get back on my feet. My parents, they've always been great to me."
Born returned to the football field in May for offseason conditioning drills, but by then had missed winter and spring practice.
"I'm still not back to where I want to be," he said.
His parents endured another scare on Sept. 7, when ODU played at Maryland. After a Heinicke pass was intercepted, Born gave chase and was clipped from behind while running full speed.
His parents were watching on ESPNews while he laid on the ground for several minutes. He finally got up and returned to the game a series later.
"I must have had eight text messages and 16 missed phone calls from my mom and dad," Born said. "They were scared. I know it's tough for them being 3,000 miles away when they see something like that."
Born plans to return to California after graduating in December, but dearly wants to play in the NFL.
"That's very important to me," he said. "I'm doing everything I can to put myself in a position to make it there."
A biology major with a 3.5 grade-point average, he said he eventually wants to be a California fish and game warden.
His parents plan to make their annual trek to Norfolk on Nov. 16, when ODU plays its final home game against Campbell.
"It's weird how fast time has gone by," Born said. "Coming to Old Dominion is the best decision I could have made."
His parents agree.
"When we get out there, we see the way the team is treated," Born's father said. "Those guys are superstars in Norfolk.
"I'm real proud of my son and of everything he's accomplished."
Harry Minium, 757-446-2371, email@example.com