CLEVELAND — Talent and athletic ability know no zip code or socioeconomic status, but becoming a professional player takes more than being great at the sport.
Resources and adequate training are essential. So, one Ohio organization with chapters in Cleveland and Columbus is working to take away barriers through the "Train Up a Child Foundation."
Coach Mark Harris of @rawtalentsports trains WR & DB Tavion Jackson (17). Talent & athletic ability know no zip code or socioeconomic status, but becoming a pro takes more than being great at the sport. “Train Up A Child Foundation” helps even the playing field. @SpectrumNews1OH pic.twitter.com/RQmSgZwbNN— Micaela Marshall (@MMarshallTV) October 27, 2021
Grit, power, and raw talent. That’s what the CEO of Raw Talent Sports will tell you it takes to be a great player.
He doesn’t just train up-and-coming football stars. Coach Mark Harris works with kids in all sports.
He said the problem is that not all athletes can afford the training needed to make it to the next level and that’s where his Train Up a Child Foundation comes into play.
“That Train up a Child program helped me go on a bus tour and showcase my talents to many Division I schools," said Tavion Jackson. The 17 year old is a wide receiver and defensive back at John Marshall High School.
Train Up a Child provides athletic training at reduced rates and in some cases, for no cost at all.
“So, that this kid has the same opportunity to get a college scholarship like any other kid," said Harris.
Jackson and Harris met last year.
“I wasn’t as fast and I am now. I wasn’t as strong as I am now. I wasn’t as skilled as I am now," said Jackson.
But life isn’t always easy for the high school senior. Recently, he was shot in the leg during a drive-by shooting in downtown Cleveland and he spent time in the hospital.
“Now that was kind of hard for me because I missed two games of the season, but I think it was my wake up call to just focus on football," said Jackson. "I’ve been through a lot. And me being shot, that really shut down my mental state for a minute. So, I'm blessed to be back on the field.”
That wake-up call keeps him coming back to train three to four times a week at CAPS Fieldhouse.
“It’s my home,” Jackson said referring to football. “Takes my mind off a lot of things.”
Drill after drill helps drill in the importance of sticking to something. Football can be a way out of the right now and a way into a better life.
“Kind of helped save my life," said Harris. “I mean, I had a great family, great home. But football was a way I found my way.”
Harris used to dream of going pro. But now, his purpose is helping others get there.
“You meet so many kids in so many circumstances. Rich. Poor. Good parenting. Lack of fathers, uncles and I get to fill in those voids through this sport," he said.
Since 2002, Raw Talent Sports has helped hundreds of kids get into college and been part of many major success stories.
“Doran Grant, National Champion at Ohio State. Donovan Munger. Denzel Ward. Frank Clark. Shaq Washington," Harris said to name a few.
His goal is to even the playing field by providing resources to kids from all backgrounds.
“I’m not saying generically, they train here and end up going to college. We've made the phone calls and connected with the college coaches to get them on their way, and giving them that second life, football life," said Harris.
Today, Jackson is being looked at by multiple Division I and II colleges. He even has a few offers. His plan is to make it to the NFL and he said none of this would be possible without Harris.
“Coach Mark is gonna make a way for you. He made a way for me," said Jackson. "He’ll make a way for ya’ll.”