Charlotte County native brings football team to region
Charlotte County native Jerome Jackson just wants to help the community. That comes through a football project, as he’s moving the Virginia Tomahawks to Farmville. Part of the American Football Federation (AFF), the group is making the transition from the Richmond area, in part because of the players around here.
“There’s a lot of guys that come from Farmville, Amelia and Buckingham to play (in the league),” said Tomahawks coach and owner Jerome Jackson. “Being from this area, I wanted to come in and give them a chance to play at home.”
This is a semi-pro league, not quite the National Football League, but also a bit different than say a simple recreation league. For one thing, the AFF covers a lot of ground. It currently has multiple teams in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland and, of course, Virginia, totaling 23 in all. Teams in the league play two seasons each year, one in spring and one in the fall.
From Charlotte County to Richmond
Jackson said it’s for anyone who wants to play, from a recent high school graduate to a former college standout who just gave up the sport after getting their diploma. Growing up in Charlotte Court House, he played football from Little League all the way to Randolph-Henry High. But after graduation, Jackson was one of those players he mentioned, someone who wanted to keep playing but lacked an outlet. That’s when he discovered the world of semi-pro football.
“There was a team up in Lynchburg called the Jaguars,” Jackson said. “I drove up there, tried out and got a spot on the roster.”
Making a move
He kept playing after a move to Richmond, suiting up for a semi-pro team in the same league. Then in 2009, he hurt his shoulder and while it ended a playing career, Jackson started helping coach. After a while, he realized this is something he wanted to keep doing, but in a different way.
“I said, I’m gonna start my own team,” Jackson said. “I saw how some coaches were treating players and that wasn’t right. I also saw an opportunity to do something more.”
That’s where the Tomahawks differ from some of the other groups they compete against. Yes, on the field, the plan is to win another AFF championship, which the group last did in 2021.
But beyond that, Jackson says his goal is to use the team to help build up the community.
“Everybody needs someone to talk to. Everybody needs a place to feel secure,” Jackson said. “We want to give people somewhere to go and give them something to do.”
As part of the team requirements, players are asked to help the community in several ways. In Richmond, Jackson said, they fed the homeless and also collected clothes and shoes to give to those in need. It’s something he wants to continue with the group here in Farmville.
They also hold camps and events for teenagers, using football as a way to help teach them life skills. For this, Jackson said, the group mainly focuses on teenagers from 13 to 17.
“The streets are taking over the kids in some places,” Jackson said. “We hope to change attitudes. We give something for them to do.”
And the outreach project isn’t limited to just teens. The club also hosts a men’s group called The Huddle.
“We meet once a month and talk about regular issues, people just share their stories,” Jackson said. “Everybody needs someone to talk to and there’s security in this group. What’s said here stays here. We have everyone come in. There are people who grew up without fathers, ministers, former alcoholics, current players, former players. Anybody will be welcome. We want it to be a safe place, where men can talk about whatever they need to get off their chest.”
Where and when?
As for the team itself, there will be a call for tryouts and players recruited as we get closer to August. Games are held on Saturdays and the season itself starts Sept. 9. But first, they need a place to play.
The team is discussing several options for a home field, Jackson said. The Charlotte County native talked to Fuqua School about using their field, along with Hampden-Sydney College. Jackson said he also tried to reach out to Prince Edward High, to see if there was interest in letting the squad lease their field, but he hasn’t heard back yet.