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Virtual symposium aims to prepare high school, college football players for the next level

Virtual symposium aims to prepare high school, college football players for the next level
Posted at 5:42 PM, Apr 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-24 10:12:12-04

CLEVELAND — The NFL draft is just a week away and dozens of hopefuls are waiting to see when and where they’ll be picked.

But moving from college to the pros is a process many players aren’t fully prepared for.

Saturday, the Professional Football Players Mothers Association is hosting a virtual event to help collegiate and high school players and their parents make that transition and take the next level up.

It's called “Next Level Up: Beginning with the End in Mind.”

“It's going to be an opportunity for us to reach out to athletes that are currently in high school, their parents, guardians, coaches and actually anyone that's interested in the information, and finding out about what you need to know to be successful at the next level if you're planning to play at the collegiate level and beyond,” said Nicole Ward, PFPMA Midwest Regional Coordinator and Browns cornerback Denzel Ward’s mom.

Ward is co-hosting the event, which will feature panelists including her son, Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, and several other players, coaches, and parents at both the pro and collegiate levels.

Panelists will discuss various topics including image and reputation, academic support, social media, mental health, NCAA compliance matters, legal matters, and branding and marketing.

“The thought behind this program is that there's really no need for parents or athletes to go into the process blindly because there's so many others that have already experienced it,” Ward said.

One of the players attending Saturday’s symposium is Tremond Luke. He’s a wide receiver and safety/outside linebacker for John Adams High School’s football team; soon he will be a Baldwin Wallace Yellow Jacket.

“It feels good,” Luke said. “I only played two years of high school and they noticed me. So it means I must have been doing something right.”

Luke, a senior, recently verbally committed to play for the university’s football team.

It was a huge relief for Luke, who couldn’t play this year after CMSD canceled all sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He dealt with the loss of sports while coping with personal struggles.

“My mom, she has really been sick, so she's been in and out of the hospital,” Luke said. “So I'm working a lot to keep lights and stuff on, keep bills paid, keep food in the house myself. So those are big challenges for me right now and trying to keep my grades up and stay in shape and stuff.”

Now, he faces even more challenges as he transitions from high school to college. He’s still undecided but is leaning towards studying business and marketing.

Luke said he is “trying to get in college football shape — mostly worried about what I want to study in college."

Luke said he plans to ask questions about those concerns at the symposium. He will be joined by five of his teammates, five parents of players on the team, and head coach Gary Jackson.

“I think that this is going to help our kids tremendously,” Jackson said.

Jackson said many families of players on his team lack resources to support their children at higher levels of the sport.

“My kids, when they have to go on college trips, college visits, when they sign up to maybe go to a college campus, something like that, I have to take them most of the time,” Jackson said. “And again, it's not any fault of the parents because, again, I mean, we're just in situations where our parents have to work because there's no choice. If our parents don't work, the kids don't eat.”

Jackson has also supported Luke during his personal struggles.

“I know everything that he's gone through, I know what he's going through now. I know the struggle that he's having with his mom,” Jackson said. “But this is one of those situations where we can say, well, is this situation going to break you or is it going to make you? And we have so many kids that it breaks, unfortunately. But he didn't break. And so it's making him, and I have no doubt that his Plan A or Plan B is definitely going to work.”

Jackson is hoping the symposium makes a difference for Luke, and for more players on his team.

“It's going to be parents there of our younger kids, which is really crucial because now they get to see this and then they get to pass it on to the next parents. So we're hoping that this is going to be like a domino effect,” Jackson said.

Registration for the Next Level Up virtual symposium is still open. More information can be found here.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter at News 5 Cleveland. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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