2 July 2022
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Leo Jackson is creating an environment, free of worry.
“That’s just my happy place. Football is my happy place,” said Frederick Steward, a seventh-grade nose tackle.
Jackson’s twice-weekly summer football camp is also free of charge.
“That’s what I think makes this a great place to be. Because you get to see people from all over the community that you might not be seeing for a long time,” said Jackson’s son, Leo Jr.
The camp is held at the Johnson High School football field in St. Paul. It provides opportunities for football players through middle school age to learn the fundamentals from experienced coaches, most of whom played in college. An opportunity that normally comes with a cost.
“A lot are hosted by celebrity professional athletes. But they’re unaffordable. They’re anywhere from $130 to $200,” said Jackson Sr. “And it’s great for kids to be able to go to camps and see their idols, but the reality is, that’s a whole days pay for some people, sometimes two.”
Jackson is the president of the St. Paul football club. But says this camp is not a recruitment tool, even encouraging players from rival youth football organizations to play. Currently there are 217 kids in this year’s camp.
“I feel like they’re doing a great deed because a lot of the camps cost a lot of money,” said Steward.
Jennifer Hartmann has been bringing her son here for two years.
“There’s families in the suburbs that need this as well. This is open to everybody. It’s not just for St. Paul kids. It’s for all kids. So a lot of the kids that you do see here are from all over the metro area that do come in,” said Hartman.
For the Jacksons it’s a family affair.
“It’s just pretty fun to have everyone here,” said Leo’s daughter Leighanna, who captures video of the drills to be reviewed and studied later.
“We can see what people need to do better, what they did perfect,” she said.
And Leo Jr. is learning the game with the group.
“My dad gets to help a lotta people. And I get to spend time with all my friends, my brothers and everyone else,” Leo Jr. said.
The elder Leo Jackson continues to serve in his favorite location.
“I could be any place in the world right now,” he said. “But I truly would rather be right here with the kids in St. Paul, getting in some work.”