Cedric Jackson knows firsthand the impact that regular exposure to a positive black man can have on impressionable students — especially young black boys.

Back in the ’80s and ’90s, he was one of them, yearning to connect with male role models. After the death of Jackson’s mother when he was 8, his father sent him to live permanently with his aunt in a tough Huntsville, Alabama, neighborhood. Jackson said that while he was growing up, it was his black coaches and teachers, especially those at Lee High School, who took an interest in him, pushing the budding football star on and off the field.

“I had a tough life; I would go to school just to eat,” Jackson, now 40, recalled of his childhood. “Coming up, it meant the world to me knowing that I had these teachers and coaches in my corner. They had the biggest influence on me; they made me feel like I was somebody.”

He said that although he was not the most committed student academically, their investment paid off. With their encouragement, compassionate guidance and thought-provoking teaching, Jackson snagged the coveted quarterback spot on the Lee High Generals team. Just before graduation, the scholarship offers poured in.

Jackson ended up playing quarterback as a true freshman for historically black Alabama A&M University before transferring to and graduating from Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.

“I still hold some records there,” said Jackson, the married father two sons. “I am currently fourth in passing yards in a game [414], 10th in career passing TDs [20], 10th in touchdown passes in season [15], eighth in touchdown passes in-game [4], second in pass efficiency [163.1], fifth in average yards per pass [8.6], seventh in average yards per completion [14.7]. All of this while running a two-quarterback system from 2000 to 2003.”

At one point, Jackson said, he’d even caught the attention of Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins coaches, but his NFL aspirations were abruptly cut short when he injured his back while playing a pickup basketball game with a relative.

Distraught but thankful for his business administration degree, Jackson eventually took odd jobs as a substitute teacher, lunchroom worker and security officer at public schools in his home state. A gig as a special education teacher’s aide ultimately helped him discover his passion and natural talent for teaching. He answered the call, completing his licensure and a master’s degree in early childhood education online, all while working two full-time jobs and coaching.

For the full story by Shandra Whitfield click on the link below because Knowledge IS Power … Applying it is Empowering!