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How football motivated Jarvis Jenkins to help others to read

Al Tielemans/Associated Press

When the pads come off, Jarvis Jenkins keeps doing the work. Discover his and other NFL players' charitable causes in their own words at The Players' Tribune as part of a special *My Cause My Cleats collaboration with NFL Media.*

*Below is an excerpt from an inspirational story from Jenkins about how his father used football to motivate him to do better in school, which led him to help others learn to read. For Jenkins' full story visit The Players' Tribune.

Everyone meets at the barbershop.

Down South, that's just how it is. Every Saturday, my dad would take my brother and me along with him to our local barbershop, Cuttin' Up, in Seneca, South Carolina and we'd be there for hours.

I mean, hours.

The haircut never took that long, but the barbershop, well, that's a place you go to get away from everything, to talk about what's going on, to talk about problems. I'd climb into one of those big chairs and listen to the guys go back and forth while my cousin Chicken would cut my hair. We called him Chicken because he's just this skinny guy, but man, does he gave a good haircut.

And after my cut, the boys in the shop would just play video games. Because no one ever left once your cut was done. And nobody paid much mind to what we were doing, just as long as we were doing something and staying out of trouble. Like I said, you were there for hours, so most of the time we'd be playing "Crash Bandicoot," "NBA Live" or "Madden."

No one thought to bring homework or a book to read. There were other places to get work and reading done, like the classroom.

The problem for me though, was I didn't seem to want to get much work done at school either.

I wouldn't say I was a troublemaker, exactly. But I just liked to be the class clown, the center of attention. I wanted to make everyone laugh. I was always talking, I was always getting up out of my seat, or fidgeting about. I just liked to have fun.

And fun for me was flinging those little paper footballs at my classmates. You know the ones I'm talking about, where you fold up the paper as tight as you can and then basically sling shot it with a rubber band. I had that down pat. See, the trick was to get one of those really thick rubber bands to make those things really fly. They would just shoot across the room and smack some kid in the back of the head. And I had to be guy who got everyone. I'd fling piece of paper and it'd hit one of my classmates while everyone else laughed.

"Who did it?" the teacher would ask.


"Of course."

I just got a little too good at folding up the paper so tightly that it turned into a pretty hard object and kids were really hurting and feeling it.

My teachers and my parents? Not feeling it.

So I came home one day after school, I was in the third grade -- another day where I got in trouble for acting out -- and before I could go upstairs and play video games like I usually would, my dad stopped me.

"You like being active, you like moving around? Well, we're gonna try and channel this energy into something else. We're gonna try football."

For more stories of inspiration and courage from NFL players, visit The Players' Tribune for the full series of My Cause My Cleats features.

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