Boris Jackson grew up in Orlando's Washington Shores, and he was determined to return to the neighborhood to help kids succeed in athletics and life.

  • Boris Jackson is from Orlando's Washington Shores neighborhood
  • He played arena football but wanted to help youth
  • Coach 'Bo Jack' now trains promising young athletes

“Central Florida as a whole needs to have a makeover," he said. “I saw how this community was going in the wrong direction with drugs and violence, even in the '80s and '90s.”

So, after a stint playing arena football, Coach “Bo Jack,” as he’s now known, returned to the place where he grew up to coach and to start a speed school. Jackson understood if young athletes from humble beginnings could simply stay focused and motivated, they could achieve an end goal, even high as the NFL.

“The most important thing for me at the time was to come back to Central Florida and give back to Central Florida," he explained.

Jackson began training promising students for free and for almost eight years, serving as more than their trainer: He'd mentor the students, taking them for haircuts or to the library, knowing he could pay it forward.

Deshawn Massey was one of those kids.

“It’s not that he just cares for sports. He cares for you being successful at the same time," said Massey of his coach.

The teen remembers meeting Bo Jack at a church convention when he was only 7 years old. The student's mother hoped the coach could keep him motivated to not only work harder on the field, but in the classroom as well. Her bet paid off: Now 19 years old, Massey heads to college on a football scholarship in the fall.

“He’s like a father figure to me. I have my Dad. But, when I come out here, he’s also my Dad," said Massey.

But, years ago, it was the coach who seemed to struggle: A phys ed teacher by day and trainer by night, Jackson poured every spare moment into volunteering. At one point, money got so tight that he almost lost his house.

“Everything that I was doing, I pretty much survived off my Orange County paycheck," he explained. “I did it for free."

But, eventually, some athletes he trained as teenagers, like Chris Johnson, made it big.

“To see one of those kids that I poured into actually make it to the NFL, I said then I have something I can give back to the community," he said. “No one in my family really had something they could hang their hat on. Before my grandmother passed, she said, 'You’re going to be the one.'"

These days, Coach Bo Jack now charges a meager amount for training. He also volunteers as a football coach at a local high school. But, the ripple of his volunteer spirit echoes throughout the community.

“There are so many kids that actually need people to stand up for the right things. Education, entrepreneurship," he said. “I helped somebody, I was able to help someone where the community said, society said, 'You can’t do it.'"

“That’s basically a hero," said Massey, continuing, "They save you from the place you shouldn’t be at."