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Black History Month

Tyrone Keys

Published February 9, 2004


CLAIM TO FAME: Keys grew up in Mississippi, playing defensive line at Jackson Callaway High and was state co-MVP with Hugh Green during this senior year. He played football at Mississippi State, was drafted by the New York Jets in the fifth round in 1981 but played in the Canadian Football League for British Columbia instead.

He returned to the NFL to play for the Super Bowl champion Bears in 1985, joined the Bucs in 1986 and finished his career with the Chargers after having back, shoulder and knee surgery in 1989.

With the Bears, Keys played with players such as Walter Payton, Mike Singletary and Dan Hampton, calling that a "pivotal time in my career." He said he learned how important work ethic is on the field from those players but also how important it is to give back to your community.

He started All Sports Community Service in 1993, a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk youth earn opportunities to pursue a college education. Since its inception, All Sports has helped more than 500 students.

Keys teams with athletes such as Derrick Brooks, the Titans' Todd Williams and former Bucs Trent Dilfer and Santana Dotson to reach children around the nation.

WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: "He helps kids who are borderline students and who might not otherwise get into schools," said Chamberlain football coach Billy Turner, who has sent several students to Keys. "He does a lot of the behind-the-scenes work that a lot of people don't want to do. It's a great thing what he's done for a lot of kids. There are a lot of kids who might not have gotten anything if it wasn't for him."

DID YOU KNOW?: In 2002, Keys and All Sports Community Service events and activities coordinator Jasmine Lane met with President Bush as part of his USA Freedom Corps initiative, recognizing All Sports as an example of dedication to service in America. Keys' organization has been featured in People magazine and has received the Spirit of Humanity Award.

WHERE ARE THEY NOW?: Keys and his wife, Bessie, have been married 22 years and have lived in Tampa since 1986. Their daughter, Chyla, 19, is a student at Saint Leo, and son, T.J., 15, attends Gaither High.

WORDS TO LIVE BY: "Always take the high road. If you've got nothing good to say, don't say nothing at all. Try to be conscious of your thoughts, words and actions, and be impeccable with your follow-through."

[Last modified February 11, 2004, 08:58:07]

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