Georgia Tech’s Ben Galloway travels emotional road after the death of his father

Georgia Tech offensive lineman Ben Galloway.

Credit: Danny Karnik

Credit: Danny Karnik

Georgia Tech offensive lineman Ben Galloway.

On April 13, in the immediate moments following Georgia Tech’s annual White and Gold game at Bobby Dodd Stadium, Ben Galloway’s aunt approached him with a special gift. It was a circular pendant attached to a gold chain.

And inside the pendant was a picture of Kenya Galloway, Ben’s father, who died Jan. 4.

“I was pretty emotional when I got that,” Ben said.

It has been emotional five months for Galloway, a second-year offensive lineman at Tech. It will continue to be an emotional road as he goes through the experience of a year that will be filled with firsts without his father, a man Galloway considered his best friend, a man who had been with him every step of the way until that winter night.

“Hard worker. Great dad,” Galloway said. “Worked for us, me and my sister. He always wanted the best for us, wanted the best for me and for me to work hard. He was just a great dude overall. I looked up to him in everything that I do.

“I could always talk to him about things close to me that I had inside. Say I had a good practice or a bad practice or a good day, bad day at school, could always talk to him, could always call him. He’d always be there. I always stopped by, he would stop by over here and we’d just chop it up about anything, anything he was dealing with or he’d start telling me about some stories at work and I’d tell him some stories from the football field. We were close like that.”

Hillgrove offensive lineman Ben Galloway (second from right) and Georgia Tech offensive line coach Brent Key (third from right) take a photo after Galloway received a scholarship offer from Key following a Tech prospect camp June 9, 2022. With Galloway are his father Kenya, his mother Nadia and his sister Nola. Tech graduate assistant Nathan Brock is taking the photo. (AJC photo by Ken Sugiura)

Credit: Ken Sugiura

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Credit: Ken Sugiura

Kenya Galloway grew up in southern Mississippi and became a standout football player himself. He was an all-state offensive lineman for Stone County High School and would go on to play at a junior college before transferring to Clark Atlanta.

It was there that he met the future Mrs. Nadia Galloway and soon after when he began to pursue his goal of becoming a police officer. It took a second attempt to graduate from the police academy before he worked as a sheriff for Fulton County and then joined the Atlanta Police Department.

Eventually, Kenya was assigned to the Executive Protection Unit which included security detail for Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.

“It took some time getting used to it,” Ben said about having his father part of the police force. “At first it was kind of hard knowing that he’s out there actually patrolling. But when I saw his passion and how much he enjoyed it and how he just wanted to serve and protect the community, I was like, ‘It is what it is. I’m happy he’s getting to do what he wants to do.’ ”

Ben also took notice of his father’s relentless work ethic. Kenya would pick up extra shifts or cover for other officers. Ben recalled a time when an APD colleague was fighting cancer and Kenya stepped up to cover for the officer while the officer was away.

Those extra shifts come in to play the night of Jan. 4. Ben had stayed at his father’s house Jan. 3 (Kenya and Nadia divorced a year earlier) and saw his dad the morning of Jan. 4 after Kenya had worked until three or four in the morning, Ben said.

Kenya left the house again around 11 a.m. for another shift and then had a break around 7 p.m. that night. He called Ben one last time.

“He was saying how he left something for me back home and I had forgot it. That was our last conversation,” Ben said.

Ben was back at his mother Nadia’s house in west Cobb County. It was late that night, Nadia said, when her phone rang. She typically didn’t answer unrecognized numbers, but for whatever reason on this night, she picked up.

It was the Atlanta Police Department letting her know Kenya was at Grady Hospital and in critical condition. They were sending an officer to pick her up and bring her in. Nadia knew something was wrong.

“I got to Grady and in the emergency room I just saw too many officers in the lobby. They all were hanging their head down. I knew. I just knew,” Nadia said. “Someone approached me, and they said, ‘I’m the chaplain from the Atlanta Police Department.’ I said, ‘I respect your job, I just don’t want to talk to you.’ Chaplains don’t come to you unless …”

Said Ben, “I just dropped and started praying and waited that night until they picked my mom up. Then (after she left) she wasn’t answering (her phone) and that’s when I really started getting worried. She came back (home) and told me. I dropped to my knees crying.”

Georgia Tech offensive lineman Ben Galloway, left, and his dad Kenya Galloway when Ben Galloway was a player at Hillgrove High School in Cobb County. Kenya Galloway died Jan. 4, 2024. (Photo contributed by Ben Galloway via Georgia Tech Athletics)

Credit: Photo contributed by Ben Galloway via Georgia Tech Athletics

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Credit: Photo contributed by Ben Galloway via Georgia Tech Athletics

Kenya Galloway, 44, was found unresponsive in his patrol car the night of Jan. 4. Officials deemed he had died from, “a medical emergency.” He had said he was going to go take a quick nap before reporting for his night shift. He never woke up.

Ben, his sister Nola, and Nadia were devastated. But Ben was especially distraught, facing a return to classes at Tech, spring football and a life without his father at his side.

“He would always say he’s gonna show up to practice and watch. Not having him there was hard,” Ben said. “He would always be who I call after practice, before practice, he’d always get me in that mode. Without him being there it was hard, but I just needed to pray. My mom has been there for me day-in and day-out.”

A graduate of Hillgrove High School, Ben turned 19 on Tuesday, his first birthday without Kenya there to celebrate with him. Sunday’s Father’s Day will be another first without Kenya as well, as will the coming summer workouts and the 2024 season.

“It’s been hard, especially those first two months coming back. It’s just been a lot,” Ben added. “I would come home crying, show up the next day with a smile on my face, walk the facility, go back to work. It’s hard. I know he’s still with me though watching over me. I gotta keep going for him because that’s what he would want. He would want nothing less.”

Ben said he has been determined to stay strong as the days, weeks and months pass. He wears that pendant proudly around his neck and is constantly reminded to create a legacy for the Galloway name through his education and football career.

“I am so proud of him. That’s how I know that God and Kenya are just standing beside him,” Nadia said. “I think the driving force is just the continued legacy of ‘Galloway Strong.’

“I can’t bring his dad back. And that’s hard for me for sure. But I know it’s even worse for him, missing him. We’re getting through it one day at time. Everything is just motivated by his father, and he wants to just have as many memories as he can leave for him and celebrate his life and make sure he’s not forgotten. I have no doubt that Benjamin is going to go very, very far. If you can get past this, you can get past anything.”