Tackling Personal Obstacles To Reach Her Goals
Personal obstacles can take a toll on an individual, especially if that individual grew up with limited resources. It takes someone with enormous determination and inner strength to transform those experiences into positive assets and use them to help others.
by Karyn Brodsky
Growing up in rural Kentucky, Jo Ann Pugh, mother of NFL veteran Jordan Pugh, was the oldest of four children to a teenage mother and a very young father. Her grandparents encouraged Jo Ann and her siblings to work hard, and they planted the seeds that they would one day be successful. Jo Ann always believed what her grandparents told her was true. At ten years old, she earned money cleaning her teachers’ homes after school and on weekends. Jo Ann was one of only four African-Americans in her 1977 high school graduating class, and she was also elected senior class president – the first African-American to hold that honor. Her determination and work ethic continued as she worked her way through college and earned a Nursing degree at the University of Kentucky-Lexington and a second degree in Business Management from The College of Mount Saint Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio. “I always had a dream, though I didn’t know what it would be,” explains Jo Ann. “I just knew I was smart and there was something better outside my small town.”
Working in key leadership roles at Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 corporations, Jo Ann became a well-respected businesswoman; however, it was when Jordan got involved in sports that she truly received an education.
Jordan’s dream was to play in the NFL. Jo Ann and her husband Marshall attended all 220 of her son’s games from grade school to the NFL. Other players did not have the support that Jordan had, and Jo Ann saw them struggle with their finances after finding success on the field. “These are very young men and women given a life-changing opportunity and incredible resources, but the environment can be brutal,” says Jo Ann. “I watched some young men being taken advantage of and I wanted a better outcome for others.” Helping with their finances became Jo Ann’s strong passion.
As Jordan advanced, Jo Ann hungered for information about how to deal with everything from finances, agents, coaches, the media and more, but it did not exist. This inspired the Plano mom to found a women’s organization called the 50-Yard Line Mom®, counseling players and their families on the complex sports process.
Jordan graduated with a degree from Texas A&M University’s College of Business in three and a half years and became a 6th round pick in the 2010 NFL draft. The day Jordan was drafted, Jo Ann and Marshall asked what his plans were after the NFL. “We wanted him to know that this is when you prepare for life off the field,” she says. “We’d heard too many news reports about professional athletes quickly blowing through their earnings.” Jordan took their advice and after a short time playing professional football, started his own company, Jordan Pugh Enterprises, LLC and now owns Pugh Pro Training, a sports training facility in the Dallas area. He also owns his own home and is debt free.
Jordan, who played for the Carolina Panthers, Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints, says parental support was critical to his success. “When I told my mom my goal, it became her goal. She made it her mission to help me get there,” he says. “I am very grateful for all that she has done for me and for the 50-Yard Line Mom.”
Jo Ann is currently writing a book tentatively titled: The 50-Yard Line Mom®: One Mom’s Journey Through the NFL and Beyond. She was appointed to the Harvard University Football Players Health Study Advisory Committee, which studies the physical, psychological and emotional health of athletes.
The 50-Yard Line Mom role that Jo Ann played in her son’s football career extends well into the life of her daughter Dominique, a student at Texas A&M University and an Athletic Department intern. Jo Ann takes an active role in Dominique’s interests and has mentored her to be a strong young woman. This supportive mom calls on her own experience to model that with the proper mindset, hard work, dedication and education, her daughter can achieve anything she dreams. It appears that like her brother Jordan, Dominique understands that “mother knows best.” She is majoring in Sport Management and Communications and plans to attend law school, where she intends to focus on Sports and Entertainment Law.
“Guiding athletes is a great opportunity, if managed properly,” Jo Ann says. “If it impacts only one child, then I’ve made a difference and finally realized my dream.”
From small town girl to nurse, businesswoman and professional sports mom, Jo Ann demonstrates that one voice advocating for athletes and their families can create a powerful impact. For her motherly intuition, business acumen and benevolent spirit, Good Life Family magazine is honored to present this month’s VIP Award to Jo Ann Pugh.