MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Over the past seven months it’s been hard to find the good in a lot of situations. In athletics, a lot has been taken away from high school athletes here in Memphis. Many were left without their high school football season. But someone who once had a door open for them, opened one for a handful of others. That was the case for Melvin Cole.
“It was a pact that I made in prison with God that if he got me out of the situation I was in I was going to come back to my hometown and commit the rest of my life to saving young men who looked like me,” founder of PURE Youth Athletic Alliance Melvin Cole said.
10 years ago, Cole started the PURE. It opened the door for underprivileged young men to learn in the classroom, and train with the former athlete.
“Sports is an easy way for first generation college graduates to make a name for themselves and push that generation poverty,” Cole said.
One of his first students was Tevin Carter. He’s still there to this day.
“When I first got here, I had character issues. I did not respect adults at all,” Carter said.
But, the reason he sought out Melvin Cole was to train. That was nine years ago.
“I had to get a head start on a lot of other kids and coach was the best trainer out there,” he added. Carter is a junior and the sixth ranked quarterback in his class.
Growing up, Carter would go to school at PURE, which was a small private boarding school. Under TSSAA rules, athletes could play at partnering public schools. He played at Freedom Prep, Central, West Memphis and was set to play his junior year at Kirby, a Shelby County School. But SCS postponed the season.. which left hundreds without their opportunity to play football.
“I immediately thought to those seniors,” Cole added.
Kaleb Almo was one of those seniors. He was banking on his senior year at Kirby High School to open doors for his football future. When SCS postponed the season until further notice, he said “At that point, I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
But Cole had an idea. Open PURE as a day school instead of a boarding school and form his own team.
“We had a tryout and we had over 100 kids show up,” he said smiling.
And you bet Almo was one of the first to sign up.
“When I heard PURE was having a tryout that really excited me a lot,” he said. “I knew there was a lot of talent in Memphis for Shelby County Schools and I felt like it’s going to be dog eat dog."
He was one of the lucky 40 to make the team. He transferred to PURE. In the classroom and on the field.
“This opportunity is one not to be taken for granted. Because we actually are not supposed to be on the field," Almo stressed. “If it wasn’t for coach Melvin and the plans he put in place for the kids in Shelby County to play football, then I wouldn’t be here. I’d be home thinking what’s next.”
Instead, what’s next is the first game for PURE under the lights, Friday night.
“I can feel it right now. I just can’t wait to wake up that Friday morning knowing at 7 o’clock we’re going to play football,” Almo said.
And for the man who planned it all, “Excited may be an understatement."
This was put together in a month and Friday night PURE will take on Christian Brothers. One of the best teams in the Shelby County area.