Keyshawn Mcleod has a vision.
After finishing up his graduate degree, the former Port Charlotte and Tulane offensive lineman was looking for a way to make an impact in his hometown.
“Growing up in Port Charlotte the only thing we had as kids was sports,” Mcleod said in a phone interview last week. “I saw some of my closest friends go to jail all because they didn’t know what to do with their lives after sports.”
Mcleod earned an undergrad degree in Homeland Security and a Masters in Liberal Arts at Tulane while spending the better part of four years opening up holes for Green Wave running backs.
But as he weighed different job opportunities in law enforcement and other fields, he returned to the idea of giving back to his hometown.
“This is my first time not playing football since I was 5 or 6,” he said. “(I decided) I wanted to give kids something to do besides sports. I came up with the idea of starting something like that in our community.
“(Other programs) are just after school. I’m starting something that’s 365 days. You have to have a place where kids can get away from abuse or just get out of the house. I was one of those kids who didn’t want to go home all of the time, but some days I didn’t have a choice, because all I had was (sports).”
Mcleod speaks openly about growing up in a house in which drugs were present. He’s elected to call his program Give Back-Take Back, because he believes that “if you do anything you’ve got to give back, because you can’t just take back things.”
He is still in the early stages of launching his project. He’s getting the legal documents in order, filing to become a 503C nonprofit organization, putting together bylaws and speaking with community and education leaders about getting financing together.
One of the people he’s spoken with was Jordan Ingman, his former football coach at Port Charlotte High School.
“It’s amazing, he called me about two-three weeks ago and we talked about how to make his idea unique,” the coach recalled. “He’s a homegrown superstar and young people are going to look up to him. I’m excited for him, he’s got the ability to make a difference in this community.”
Ingman said he’s not surprised Mcleod has elected to take on this project.
“He was always more mature for his age than other kids, so I’m not surprised at all with his goals,” he said. “He’s always been wise beyond his years. Even in high school he approached things as somebody older would. I think he shows a tremendous maturity and wisdom.”
Mcleod envisions his facility offering help to kids well beyond sporting activities.
“We’re going to have tutoring and mentoring,” he said. “We’re going to have financial counseling. A lot of kids don’t know how to save money, a lot don’t know how to manage their money.
“We’re going to hygiene sessions, nutrition sessions, cosmetic sessions. We’re going to have career counseling every day. We’re going to different professionals sit down with them every day.”
Ingman believes that his former player has hit upon a glaring concern in Charlotte County.
“There’s a humongous need in this area,” he said. “He could stand in that gap for young man looking for a father figure that he may not have at home.”
Mcleod knows that while his football days may be behind him (although he hasn’t completely shut that door), he still has important work to do.
“Helping Tulane to back-to-back Bowl wins, that meant something to me,” he said. “But this is going to mean everything to me, helping my community.”