Jawann Turner said when he talks about the importance of academics to young people, he uses himself as an example.
Turner, a 2003 Hammond High grad and 2003 Times Tim Bishop Athlete of the Year winner, had football offers from Purdue and Wisconsin, but did not qualify academically.
"I use myself as an example all the time. I up front tell them that," Turner said. "You have to put the work in in the classroom. I learned the hard way, but I learned."
Turner not let that stop of his dream of playing college football or getting a college degree. He played at College of DuPage for a year, then at Rock Valley after DuPage dropped its program. He earned a scholarship at Indiana State, where he played football and graduated in 2008 with a degree in criminology.
"I had to work extra hard, but it was worth it to get into a (four-year) college and earn that degree," Turner said. "I tell the kids, that you have to get an education. No matter what, once you get that college degree, nobody can take it from you."
Turner was Mr. Everything at Hammond as he starred in football, basketball and track. On the track, the only races he lost was at the state meet in the 100- and 200-meter dashes. He was the most valuable player of the North-South all-star football game and he passed for 1,843 yards and 16 touchdowns, and rushed for 1,094 yards and 11 TDs in 2002.
In basketball, he averaged 23 points per game.
Now, he works with troubled youths and also is an assistant football coach for Roy Richards at Morton.
"One day, I hope to be a head coach," Turner said. "I listen and learn from Roy. He has taught me so much about the game. He really loves what he is doing and loves the game."
Turner said he loves his job because he feels he can make a difference in kids' lives.
"A lot of these kids, it is making sure they get their GED or you help them try and get a job," Turner said. "They need some guidance, some direction and someone who cares about them. At both places, we have people who care about helping the individual.
"I think a big part is showing you care and encourage them."