The car ride from Long Branch Elementary School, where Trentiss Harris learns, to TIAA Bank Field, where Trevor Lawrence labors, takes less than 10 minutes.
While the distance between the two Jacksonville institutions is minimal, the potential impact of a brief meeting between the now fourth-grader and the Jacksonville Jaguars' rookie quarterback seven months ago could be monumental. Harris's voice was one of the first Lawrence heard when he and his wife Marissa arrived in the Bold New City of the South for the first time, the day after Trevor became the franchise's first-ever No. 1 overall draft pick in late April.
"Welcome to Duval. This is your ball," said Harris, flanked by 23 of his classmates, as he handed Trevor a commemorative pigskin to mark the occasion in a symbolic gesture that'll never be forgotten in Jaguars' lure.
Now, Trevor, a Cartersville, Ga. product and Clemson alumnus, is paying the southern hospitality he was shown upon his arrival in the 904 back. He's chosen to champion Long Branch Elementary for the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats initiative, through which players showcase their passions beyond the game and sport customized footwear that represents a goodwill organization they support. Lawrence will wear one-of-a-kind adidas cleats designed by Long Branch students and perfected by Jacksonville artist Chris Clark during the Jaguars' Week 13 matchup on the road against the Los Angeles Rams.
Originally drawn by Clark, he provided coloring pages for the kids to unleash their creativity on. Several themes kept reoccurring in the students' renderings:
- "Drip" (They wanted to make sure Lawrence's cleats looked cool)
- 'LBE,' (Those are the schools' initials)
- The school building, (It represents their desire for Lawrence to visit them once COVID-19 protocols permit.)
The finished product is the colorful custom cleats you see today.
For Lawrence, the collaboration isn't just fashionable. It's formative. It symbolizes the beginning of a beautiful relationship and cements his commitment to making Jacksonville better, both between and outside the lines.
"I'm pumped to be able to represent Long Branch Elementary during the My Cause My Cleats campaign this year," Lawrence said. "Those kids were the first to welcome me to Jacksonville after I was drafted and gave me a taste of the spirit of this great city."
Trevor, the student body, and the faculty of Long Branch share more than an area code. They're both striving for greatness against seemingly insurmountable odds. Trevor's long been touted as a generational talent and is being depended upon, as one of the organization's foundational rebuilding pieces, to return the Jaguars to winning ways once and for all. Teachers and students, such as Trentiss, a Pop Warner quarterback for the Westside Wildcats and high academic achiever, often must overcome obstacles such as hopelessness, social and emotional issues on their way to achieving their goals.
"No matter what challenges or obstacles that their students and families face, the school's dedication to its students and the way they encourage them to be their best is why I'm supporting them this year and for years to come."
And they'll be reciprocating the love right back, every step of the way.