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Program trains young athletes, helps seniors

By TIM GUERCIO

THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT

NATCHEZ — Young athletes simply call Eddie Ray Jackson “Coach.”

Jackson, 51, earned the title through a lifetime commitment to athletics.

Jackson has either played sports or coached young people ever since he was in grammar school.

In college, Jackson was lined up for four years in the backfield or split out as a receiver for The Southern Miss Golden Eagles, and quarterback Brett Favre was leading the way.

For the past 16 years, however, Jackson has been leading the way in the Natchez community for young people on and off the track field and helping elderly people with their lives.

Starting every March for the past 16 years, Jackson has hosted and worked with a group of young Miss-Lou athletes who are serious about track and field.

This year, Jackson has 15 young athletes on the team ranging in age from 6 to 21 and they workout on the Natchez High School track five times a week, starting at 6:30 p.m. and going until dark. 

“These kids come out here on their time,” Jackson said, “not school time, to turn themselves into the best athletes that they can be.”

To find out who needs help in the community, Jackson, who operates under a 501 (C) (3) non-profit, said he starts out by going to churches and asking if anyone in the congregation needs any type of help.

“If they needed their grass cut or help with groceries, we would help out,” Jackson said. “We would visit the elderly in nursing homes and people in the hospital, and it eventually led to networking with the organization Feed The Hungry.”

If money is needed for someone in need then Jackson and the track teams through the years get the job done.

“We will have a car wash, or sell hot dogs, have a raffle or whatever it takes,” Jackson said.

One athlete working with Jackson this year is Tommy Queen, 10, a soon-to-be-fifth-grade student at McLaurin.

“Tommy shows up every day to practice and is real easy to coach,” Jackson said.

Another young athlete is Maur’ziyah Bass, a 6-years-old student at Ferriday Elementary. Bass is in her third year running track on Jackson’s team.

“Her best events are the 100- and 200 meter dash,” Jackson said, “and she is beating kids who are 2 and 3 and 4 years older than her.”

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