De’fron Fobb has Colorado coach Deion Sanders looking fresh
After managing pain in his personal life, the designer’s apparel line is thriving, in part because of Coach Prime
The pain won’t ever truly fade, but it gets a little better every day for 44-year-old De’fron Fobb.
It has been 36 years since his mother’s boyfriend shot her to death and 26 years since his father was infected with HIV from contaminated needles and died.
“He’s one of my life stories that I tell,” said Dirk Ricks, Fobb’s high school basketball coach, who’s known him most of his life. “I’m very, very, very, very proud of him. A lot of kids in his situation would’ve given up, quit, or used it as an excuse. He used it all as motivation.”
Fobb has spent a lifetime managing the pain from their deaths. He’s spent countless hours in therapy sifting through thoughts that have led to anxiety and depression.
These days, though, life is good.
The former detention officer, hip-hop beat maker, and Foot Locker manager has settled into life as a special education teacher and assistant basketball coach at Pebblebrook (Georgia) High School, 20 minutes west of Atlanta. He’s been married for seven months and just opened a storefront in his hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to sell apparel primarily targeted at historically Black colleges and universities.
His apparel line is thriving, in part, because Colorado coach Deion Sanders often wears Fobb’s gear during practice and news conferences.
Sanders began wearing it at Jackson State. Fobb became friends with other coaches close to Sanders, one of whom was Ray Forsett — currently the chief of staff for Colorado football. Forsett coached high school basketball for several years in Dallas-Fort Worth.
Forsett occasionally wore Fobb’s apparel. Once he started coaching at Jackson State, Fobb began sending Sanders care packages.
Sanders wore it, so Fobb sent packages more regularly.
“He wore the sweatsuit, and then he made a video that went viral,” Fobb said. “Ever since then, he’s been rocking with the brand and the logo.
“In the video, he’s sitting at his desk, and he was coaching in my gear, and he said, ‘I’m so clean I’m dirty.’ ”
Sanders left Jackson State in December to become the coach at Colorado. Fobb quickly reached a licensing agreement with Colorado and began producing all black-and-gold gear.
“At Colorado, it’s crazy,” Fobb said. “Everybody is doing something with Colorado because of the Prime effect. I’m just grateful and blessed that I’ve been rocking with him before Colorado.
“You can wear it to work, you can wear it to church, and you can wear it out. I remember when people wore gear from schools they weren’t affiliated with because they liked the color or style.”
The Anthony Lawrence Collection is thriving, and every time someone wears his apparel, he beams. After all, he’s still trying to make Ivy and Anthony Fobb proud.
“I think they’d be proud of my resilience. Not giving up and not quitting,” Fobb said. “They never raised me and my brother that way. They taught us that if we start something, we have to see it through.
“I always saw how hard my aunt and grandmother worked to give us what we wanted. We always had what we needed. I couldn’t quit.”
Fobb experienced many dark days as he wandered through the storm created by his mother’s slaying. He was 8, his younger brother, Anthony Jr., was 6.
Ivy Fobb, a high school sprinter, fed his love for sports. She’s the one who introduced him to basketball and baseball. She worked security at the Baton Rouge airport and moonlighted at a gas station. Sometimes, she worked a third job, but she always found time to take him to practice.
After she died, Fobb moved in with his grandmother, Ivy Fobb’s mom. Anthony Jr. moved in with her sister.
“I never handled it. I never had the mother-son love,” Fobb said. “I think my life would’ve been different if I had it, but I never had it, so I don’t know. No matter how much my grandmother did for me — I love her, and I can never repay her — but the one thing a kid can never get back is a mother-son love.”
Anthony Fobb has seen his brother’s struggles.
“He always felt like he was missing something. It really affects him at times,” he said. “But since he’s gotten married and his clothing line is doing well, he’s happy.
“I know he wishes they could share in his success.”
Anthony Sr. did his best to fill the gaps created by Ivy’s death.
He played Double Dribble or Tecmo Bowl with his sons on their Nintendo. Or they rode bikes. Or played at Kerr Warren Park. Each year, he bought his son’s the newest Jordan sneakers.
“Jordans used to come out on Wednesdays. My dad would leave work and bring me and my brother the Jordans to school,” Fobb remembered. “We weren’t rich. These were just the sacrifices that my dad made for us.”
As Fobb entered Jehovah-Jireh Christian Academy, he developed into a fine basketball player.
He also noticed that his father was starting to do drugs more regularly, but it wasn’t until it cost him his job as a custodian that Fobb thought it was anything more than recreational.
“As a kid, you getting what you asked for,” said Fobb, “but you don’t realize that you’re getting what you asked for so you won’t bother them while they are doing the things they were doing.”
He turned that into a basketball scholarship at Louisiana-Lafayette and transferred during the fall semester to historically Black Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. He drove 280 miles from Marshall to Baton Rouge, whenever Wiley didn’t have a game, to visit his father.
“I remember going to the hospital. My dad couldn’t talk. He had tubes and stuff in his mouth,” Fobb said. “Don’t worry about [Anthony Jr.]. I’ll make sure he’s all right. That was the biggest thing for me.
“I didn’t know how my brother would handle it. I was in college, but he was still in high school.”
Fobb played his last two seasons at East Texas Baptist, averaging 15 points. After graduating from college, Fobb returned to Baton Rouge.
While working on his master’s degree from Southern University in 2008, Lids hired him as an assistant manager because it was buying a Tiger Mania store and needed help with the transition. He did so well that the company wanted to hire him for a full-time job.
He didn’t want the job, but it spawned an idea.
“I realized there wasn’t an everyday brand back then besides Phat Farm that fit everyday lifestyle,” Fobb said. “I wanted to create a brand you could wear to work and have a social life outside of work without having to change.”
He created a T-shirt design for Southern University in 2012. His friends and family liked it and wore it, so he put it on Facebook. His inbox filled up with messages asking to buy the shirt. Southern mailed him a cease-and-desist letter, which thrilled him.
“I’ve seen unlicensed stuff and merchandise all the time,” said Fobb. “For them to find me and make me go the right way, they saw something, but I knew I had something.”
He researched the process and applied for a license. Licenses for Grambling and Jackson State soon followed. Now, he has nearly 30 licenses.
“To get them stickers in the mail to have it on my clothes that I used to sell was unreal for the first two years,” Fobb said. “Your friends and family gonna support but to have people that don’t know me who aren’t affiliated with me to buy the clothes meant a lot.”
Fobb named his clothing line after his father. At the time, his favorite designers were Ralph Lauren and Sergio Hudson. He settled on his father’s name, Anthony Lawrence, because it sounded stylish and like something people would wear.
Then, he worked on the logo.
“I wanted something to remember my parents even though it’s named after my dad,” Fobb said. “The shield [Anthony Lawrence Collection emblem] that’s them protecting me. You got the wings. They’re both angels.
“And the crown, I’m a king — cool, intelligent, noble gentleman — it all fits one big theme.”