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Person of the Year / Tyrone Keys

Written by Michael Murillo, The Carrollwood News, December, 29, 2004

Tyrone Keys' success on the football field at Mississippi State University earned him a spot in that school's Sports Hall of Fame. His accomplishments in the National Football League earned him roster spots with the Chicago Bears, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers. His contributions to the Bears' defense during the 1985 season earned him a Super Bowl ring and a spot in the team's famous "Super Bowl Shuffle" video.

But his off-field accomplishments have earned him the gratitude and respect of hundreds of local students and families and his dedication to helping the community has earned him the designation of Carrollwood News Person of the Year. Just don't expect Keys, 45, to take much credit for himself. "I'm just humbled by it," said the Carrollwood resident. "First of all, All Sports (the organization Keys founded in 1993) is the result of a lot of people, so I take this award for the whole All Sports Staff and all our partners in the community."

A profile of Keys is almost necessarily a profile of All Sports Community Service, since he's always promoting his group and introducing new opportunities to students. The nonprofit mentoring organization has helped about 600 young people achieve their dreams of attending college.

All Sports assists in finding scholarships and schools, as well as test preparation and etiquette pointers. They also help create highlight videos for student athletes and provide a place for recruitment meetings. Essentially, Keys wants to eliminate any roadblocks that might prevent a student from getting a college education.

And while those programs help the students who participate in All Sports, other community groups benefit as well. Keys stresses the community service aspect of the All Sports experience, and students will spend time helping organizations like Joshua House and Metropolitan Ministries as they go through the program.

While All Sports Community Service has been helping people for more than 11 years, Keys himself was reaching out to kids well before that. In fact, Lutz resident Dean Rivett met Keys when he was still playing professional football, and years before he founded his organization. For the young Rivett, still a long way from graduating high school, it was an important meeting.

"He took me under his wing," Rivett recalled. "I was actually the first student that he started All Sports with." Keys would call him from California when he played for the San Diego Chargers, and helped Rivett get a scholarship to Trinity College in Chicago. They remain friends to this day, still speaking about once a week, and he said Keys played in instrumental role in shaping who he is today.

In Rivett's case, the drive to help others was not only effective but infectious. Keys motivated him to help other students when he was still in high school, and he still carries that attitude as an adult. In fact, Rivett is now recognized as a philanthropist in his own right, earning the ceremonial title of Lutz Guv'na by raising money for local organizations. He not only raised the most money over the course of the 2004 campaign - Rivett raised more than $12,000 - he raised more than anyone in Lutz Guv'na history.

He credits Keys with being an inspiration, a friend, and impacting the path of his life. "He helped me out financially, spiritually, emotionally. He's like a second dad to me," Rivett said. "I was very blessed to meet him." While Keys is now credited with changing the course of hundreds of lives, he believes they've changed his life as well. "They've done as much for me as people say I've done for them," he explained. "When a man has faith and he has a purpose to get up every morning, you just can't wait for morning to come."

And when morning comes, Keys usually has a full schedule planned for the day. He's often either in meetings, attending events or working on a project. Recently, All Sports moved into its new location on Himes Avenue, and Keys has also set up a library in the office where kids can read motivational material.

"He helped me out financially, spiritually and emotionally. He's like a second dad to me."
DEAN RIVET Lutz Guv'na

But other times he's simply. offering encouragement to a young person. He calls them after their games and he follows up on them when they go off to school. He even saves some of the messages of gratitude they leave on his voicemail. In fact, he said it's been years since he's gone more than two consecutive days without speaking to a student.

His level of dedication requires making and taking calls at various hours, attending community service projects and keeping in touch with both volunteers and students throughout the day. It's a timeconsuming schedule, and Keys said that the support of his wife, Bessie, has been instrumental to his success. "I definitely couldn't have gotten it done without my wife, who's been very understanding," he said.

His children, Chyla and T.J., have also been supportive, sometimes attending community service projects with him. He said as they've grown up, they've become accustomed to their father's different commitments and passion for helping others. "They just look at dad as being dad," he said. "That's all they know. It's just the way I am."

While Keys remains as dedicated as ever to helping others, he's working toward expanding the reach of All Sports. Now that his organization has been in existence for several years, many students he's helped have attended college, graduated and come back to the community. Keys wants these young adults to continue the cycle of support. "Now I have to speak to the kids that I helped so that they can help the next group," Keys said. He now has a team of five former students who each mentor a dozen kids of their own.

He also wants to continue working with professional football players in fund-raising efforts, and encouraging retired players to start similar programs in their home towns. When All Sports was a new organization, Keys received support from former Bears teammate Mike Singletary, and he wants to help others make contributions in their communities.

"I believe everything starts with love. I think if love is at the forefront and it's leading the way and there are no ulterior motives, then that's the light that will shine in the darkness."

All Sports Community Service is at 4511 N. Himes Ave., Suite 195. For more information, call 348-3729 or visit

Tyrone Keys stands outside the offices of All Sports Community Service. The organization has helped hundreds of young people achieve their goal of attending college since 1993.