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Pilot program helps N.J. inner-city football players

testsports050709_optSpecialized training for talented high school student-athletes has become almost a prerequisite for earning a college scholarship.  Unfortunately for many urban kids in New Jersey, that kind of instruction has been unavailable, primarily for financial reasons.

But thanks to Summit's Steven Colson, 11 high school football standouts from Newark and East Orange were able to take part in an intensive eight-week program at TEST Sports Clubs in Martinsville, to prepare for their junior or senior summer football camps.

Colson underwrote scholarships for them to work out at TEST, which has trained more than 30 current NFL rookies, including Monmouth tight end John Nalbone, who was selected by the Dolphins, and Rutgers DL/LB Jamaal Westerman, who was signed by the Jets, and several present NFL standouts including Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens.

Last night at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, Colson, along with TEST CEO and Founder Brian Martin, gave out awards at the Scholarship Banquet.  But for the 11 students, selected from more than 50 applicants through a process that rewards classroom excellence and attendance as well as football skill, it was a night of winners all around.

“These 11 student-athletes have trained hard over the past two months and have been able to refine their skills,” said former New York Giants guard and Watchung Hills resident Billy Ard, who has worked with them, especially the linemen, and served as keynote speaker at the banquet.  “They are a great group of guys and I think their athletic ability and character will serve them well as they look towards their college careers.”

One of the program's brightest stars, and one with whom Ard has has a lot of experience working, is Newark's Khalid Jordan.  He plays for Shabazz High School and attends the Arts School, both in his hometown.  At 6' 5” and down to 330 pounds (from the 350 at which he had started the program), Khalid has shown great dedication to go along with his athleticism.  He will be a senior this year, and has been heavily recruited by the likes of Penn State, Miami and Connecticut.

“Khalid has only played football for one year and is just 'scratching the surface' on what he can do,” said Martin.  “He has been working with our performance staff and Billy Ard on offensive line techniques and is positioned to have a monster senior year.”

According to Martin, Khalid's mother has been filming a documentary on her son's progress, with his TEST experience a large part of it.

The program would not be possible without the generosity of Colson, who was born in Texas and raised in Summit.  After graduating from Clemson University, he started several businesses with his brother, Doug.  Steve regularly volunteered his time teaching English to Central American Refugees as part of an Amnesty program and served on the Board of Directors of a refugee center in Plainfield.  Colson has also opened his home to several immigrant families who came to the U.S. as political asylum refugees or war refugees, including families from Vietnam, Iran, Somalia, Bosnia, Romania, and Armenia.  He is highly involved in the Rutgers Future Scholars program which guarantees scholarships to 200 qualified students each year who are from Newark, Camden, New Brunswick and Piscataway.


The students in the program include:

Oba Andrews, Queen of Peace H.S. ; Jimi Gbadamasi, Barringer ; Laquan Harris, Malcom X Shabazz H.S.; Khalid Jordan, Arts H.S./Malcom X Shabazz H.S. ; Anthony Lee Jr., Malcom X Shabazz H.S. ; Baja Rowe, St. Peter’s Prep; Sheldon Royster, St. Peter’s Prep; Vane Scott Jr., Malcom X Shabazz H.S.; Ahmad Shuler, Essex County College; Tamir Turpin, East Orange H.S. ; Derrell Wilson, Weequahic H.S.

 

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