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Rising NFL Star Jaydon Mickens Comes ‘Out The Mud’ to Give Back
By E. Mesiyah McGinnis
Published July 12, 2018

Rising NFL Receiver Jaydon Mickens of the Jacksonville Jaguars (middle, blue cap), in conjunction with Keith Belton of SEA  and Nicole Lynn, sports agent at Young Money APAA Sports, provided a free youth football camp (ages 8-14) at Rancho Cienega ‘s Jackie Robinson Stadium  and Dorsey High home field, on Saturday, July 7. (Photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

By E. Mesiyah McGinnis LA Sentinel Staff Writer

Jaydon Mickens of the Jacksonville Jaguars returned to his inner-city L.A. roots, along with Keith Belton of SEA and sports agent Nicole Lynn of Young Money APAA Sports, to present “Out The Mud” (OTM), a free youth football camp /mentorship effort for kids (ages 8-14) at Rancho Cienega Sports Complex’s Jackie Robinson Stadium (aka Dorsey High), in South L.A. on Saturday, July 7.

Jags Jaydon Mickens greats youth at his first youth sports camp. (Photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Mickens follows other Dorsey Don legends and past NFL WR greats in Keyshawn Johnson, Butch Johnson, Dennis Northcutt, Antonio Chapman, Aaron Cox and a stellar list of ex Don receivers who made an impact in the NFL. There’s a kind of swag inherited within the Dorsey football fraternity; they share and understand the mercurial culture of inner-city L.A., and what it takes to thrive from within.

Mickens times a young speedster at his Out The Mud youth football camp at RCSC / Dorsey High Field. (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Though shunned by NFL scouts, Mickens would not be denied. He trained, prayed, and remained steadfast in his faith. “Out The Mud is where I came from to make it in the NFL, and I want the kids to see me and know my story,” said Mickens, who relentlessly reminded the youth of their boundless potential, but didn’t back away from reprimanding the trash talkers who couldn’t produce. “See … you doin’ all that talking but he’s beating you. Don’t talk about it … be about it!”

Mickens teaches youth football campers to stay aggressive, focused, and aware in sports and life at OTM 2018. (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis).

The youth football camp attracted nearly 100 young football enthusiasts who welcomed the rare opportunity to meet a hometown hero, workout with him and be mentored by the kind of professional athlete often deemed inaccessible. “I came back here for you guys; to let you know I am no different than you are. I may be at another level now but I was just like you.  It’s possible … it’s possible.”

NFL WR Jaydon Mickens (left -blue hat) jumps with other enthusiastic coaches and trainers, as youth sprinters come to a near photo finish in the 40-yard-dash at Mickens’ OTM youth football camp. (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Mickens (age 24), a Dorsey High and Baldwin Hills Pop Warner alumnus, played on the very field that he returned to hold his first camp. He not only showed up in 100-degree weather, he brought a group of coaches and trainers from SEA to help educate and instill values in the kids through rotating group sessions and one-on-on competition.

Hign school athletes compete in the 60 yard dash at Jaydon Mickens Out the Mud youth football camp (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Belton is the SEA (Strength Endurance Academy) founder and is also the Assistant Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at USC. According to Belton, SEA  is a youth fitness organization that hosts  all  kinds of sport camps for youth in L.A. and surrounding areas. “The camp was an awesome community initiative. For four hours those kids had the opportunity to fellowship with professional athletes from various sports, coaches, teachers and as well as community leaders. They were motivated and inspired to catch their dreams through hard work and dedication. I’m excited to be a part of the event next year,” said Belton.

SEA training team (l-r) Trainer, Venus Moore, Baltimore Ravens running back,  Buck Allen, SEA Founder, Keith Belton, USC Trojan and Former Ravens player, Gerald Bowman, at Out The Mud youth football camp. (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Each drill focused on different training methods, from agility drills, to heavy rope strengthening training, sand bag tossing, ladder drills, and competitive 40 and 60 yard sprint races. “This the stuff that gets your body right,” Mickens shouted to the young athletes on the heavy rope. Sports Academy came out to assist and teach the importance of recovery through technology–based treatment methods and-on-the-field techniques.

OTM participants learn how to maneuver the heavy rope in Jaydon Mickens’ (left) first OTM youth football camp, on Saturday, July 7. (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

In addition to the physical activities, the camp focused on challenging, uplifting and mentoring youth by connecting with them early. Mickens knows what it takes to overcome the challenges young athletes will face ahead. His “Out The Mud” program provides a true-to-life example of a young rising athlete who came from meager beginnings but pulled himself up and out of hopelessness. “I wasn’t drafted. I was constantly told no but that never stopped me,” said Mickens.  He also promulgated his matra of “school and sports” being interrelated and not separate.  “When you go to college, you will be labeled a student athlete  … not just an athlete,” emphasized Mickens.

Rising NFL Star Jaydon Mickens talks to his young athletes about his tough road to the NFL at his first Out The Mud (OTM) youth football camp . (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

“Jaydon’s presence here today is vital for kids in this community. He is proof positive that results happen when you stay focused. Rancho Cienega and Dorsey High have rich histories of producing college and pro athletes; it’s always encouraging when they return and give back their time and resources. Jaydon is a class act,” said Phillip Wiley, assistant director RCSC.

(Left) Sports agent Nicole Lynn of Young Money APAA Sport, Mickens (right) and other volunteers helped participants receive gifts, including autographed t-shirts, book bags, and other items at Mickens’ Out The Mud youth football camp on Dorsey High’s football field, where his career blossomed as a youth in South L.A.. (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Securing an NFL roster spot wasn’t easy for Mickens. After a strong college career at the University of Washington, he was not invited to the 2016 NFL combines and went undrafted that year. He likens his journey to treading though a thick and deep mud and having to struggle away from its dream-deferring pull. Some make it out, some don’t.   Mickens’s story of resiliency is what Hollywood movies are made of.

Mickens works one-on-one drills at his OTM youth football camp, at Rancho Cienega Sports Complex and home field for Dorsey High and Baldwin Hills Pop Warner.  (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

But fight Mickens did, and step-by-step, he eventually made the Oakland Raiders practice squad but was signed and cut three times before signing with the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad.

Although Mickens made the practice squad, the tumultuous life of an undrafted rookie made him feel unstable and unsure about his future. To save money, he slept in his car until he was eventually promoted to the active roster on October 21, against the Colts. But the world got a Hollywood-like introduction to Mickens on November 5th, when he scored his first NFL TD on an electrifying 63-yard punt return that he sealed with a front flip into the end zone against the Bengals.

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Jaydon Mickens (85) scored his first NFL TD on an electrifying 63-yard punt return that he sealed with a front flip into the end zone against the Bengals.  (Getty Images)

Mickens was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, and in  Week 14, he made another spectacular play on a 72-yard punt return against the Seahawks, setting up a touchdown to give his underdog Jaguars a 14-point lead over the Seahawks, gaining AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for the second time.

(l-r-) Keith Belton SEA, Nicole Lynn of  Young Money APAA Sports, Judy (Mickens’ mom and co/coordinator) Jaydon Mickens, WR Jacksonville Jaguars at Mickens’ first Out The Mud youth football camp, at Dorsey High School field where he played as a youth. (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Used primarily for special teams, Mickens had only one reception leading up to Week 15 but replaced an injured receiver and had his biggest NFL game yet, with four catches for 61 yards and two second-quarter touchdowns to give the Jags a playoff-clinching victory over the Houston Texans. A star and humanitarian was born.

NFL Jags WR Jaydon Mickens (blue cap) inspire youth through a “hard work” huddle break. (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Mickens spoke to youth directly about making positive choices. He had a good rookie season and although just a sophomore as a pro, he isn’t waiting for multi-million dollar contracts to make a difference in the community that raised him. “The school stuff … the school stuff is the most important part of your lives now. School and sports. [In the NFL] I have to my homework before I can play in big stadiums,” Mickens said.

Mickens (left) signed autographs and gave out pizza to all the participants at his Out The Mud youth football camp. (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

“Build up the youth. That’s what we do for the next generation. Big ups to Jaydon Mickens for being out here and providing his time to the kids,” said SEA trainer Coach T.C. Coaches and trainers collaborated, each bringing their individual methods but for one unified purpose. Trainer Foot Dr. Hart agreed. “You can’t build without a foundation; so, you build a foundation. You start with the youth and you start in your community. We’re just building great people out here,” he said.

SEA coaches and trainers work to teach technique, sportsmanship, and self esteem at NFL sophomore Jaydon Mickens’ Out the Mud youth football camp in South L.A. (Photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Mickens and coaches thanked the participants for coming out and gave a special shout to the girls who participated. He urged the kids to use good judgment in life regardless of your surroundings. “I want y’all to conduct yourselves with integrity, behind closed doors in private and in front of everybody in public. Act accordingly so you can take it to the next level,” he said.

Jaydon Mickens (blue hat) of the Jacksonville Jaguars returned to his inner-city L.A. roots to present “Out The Mud” (OTM), a free youth football camp /mentorship effort for kids (ages 8-14) at Rancho Cienega Sports Complex’s Jackie Robinson Stadium (AKA Dorsey High), in South L.A. on Saturday, July 7. (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

The participants were given autographed t-shirts, book bags, fed pizza, and left with unforgettable life lessons from a real-life superhero from their ‘hood. “That’s just the kind of kid Jaydon is. He cares about people,” said Judy, Mickens’ mom, who volunteers with the coordination and operation of his various humanitarian pursuits. She has been a confidant and witness throughout Mickens’ journey.

Mickens’ mom, Judy (right), Wiley family members (left), and other volunteers help pass out pizza and cleanup afterwards at Jaydon Mickens’ Out The Mud youth football camp at Rancho Cienega in South L.A. (photo. E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

“I took the hard road. I kept being told no, I can’t play football anymore, but I got it ‘Out The Mud’ and kept grindin’ to show these dudes that I can play this sport at a high level,” Mickens said to the attentive group. He was grateful for the large turnout. “Hey, if you guys don’t show up today and give that effort and give everything you have, we don’t have a camp.  I want you guys to keep that energy, that aggression and hunger to go out there and do great things.  I appreciate y’all waking up on a Saturday and getting this work in with me. It’s a blessing and I appreciate y’all.”

NFL WR Jaydon Mickens (right) takes time to sign autographs and encourages youth to make good choices at his first Out The Mouth your football camp, at Dorsey High School in South L.A. (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

As Mickens prepares for his sophomore NFL season, he is clearly focused on football and building young people and community. And just like his playing style, he’s aggressive, makes big plays, is a potential game changer, and knows how to make an impact.

The Out The Mud team after the youth football camp at the home field for Dorsey High School, where Mickens played in high school. (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

When the event was over, Mickens, Belton, and a young participant took extra pizzas to the needy, who are known to live in back parking lot.  Just like he has fought for his coveted NFL career, it appears Mickens couldn’t wait to be the leader he has become.

After his Out The Mud Camp, Mickens made good use of the extra pizzas by giving them away to the needy. (photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

 

Additional Photos E. Mesiyah McGinnis

 

*** This story has been editing to include new information and images.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Football | Local | News | Sports
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