After playing for the Mizzou soccer team and a number of NFL teams, Jerrell Jackson has seen his name in the lights more than the average person in Colombia. Although his time in the field is over, Jerrell has found his place as a part owner and trainer at API Project Fitness.
However, Jerrell says the journey to where he is was not an easy one.
After his stint in the NFL, Jerrell lived in Houston. At the time, he was working as a sales manager at a local gym and he started doing some personal training in parallel. Jerrell’s first customer? His mother.
âI was training my mom and some of her friends,â Jerrell laughs. He eventually started coaching a few athletes who admired him, âbut I wasn’t responsible for anyone. I was doing it just because I had a lot of free time.
Jerrell’s friend Michael Egnew took note. Michael had lent a hand when his sister-in-law, Melissa Wilhite, opened a competitive gym, the All-Star Performance Institute, in Colombia. Michael had noticed that the gym was not used for most of the day – many young athletes were only able to train after 4 p.m., at the end of the school day – and he came up with the idea of ââopening the gym during the day to an older clientele. Knowing that Jerrell was now a personal trainer, Michael invited him to return to Columbia to begin this new adventure together.
âI thought about it, but it took me a minute to go back,â Jerrell says. In addition to pursuing his career as a personal trainer, Jerrell still had an ambition to join the NFL. After thinking about it, he decided that the move would give him more opportunities to hone his own skills. He accepted Michael’s proposal and Jerrell returned to Columbia to work at the All-Star Performance Institute.
“Long story short, I moved here [and] me and Egnew started doing training camps and training athletes. Before you know it, we were training 50 to 60 adults and over 30 or 40 athletes, âJerrell explains. The pair eventually moved to a new location and API Project Fitness was born. âIf it hadn’t been for the cheering gym, the All-Star Performance Institute, I wouldn’t even have been able to make it here in Columbia. Well done to Melissa and Egnew for convincing me to come here! Jerrell said.
The API has become a popular place for experienced athletes and fitness newbies alike, which Jerrell attributes to the positive, uplifting energy of the gym.
âIf you talk to someone, they always tell you for sure: the API is electric. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been up for 72 hours and walked into the gym with no juice like, just a body, no soul, âhe laughs. âSomehow you’re going to walk into this gym and feel like you’ve just had 10 coffees and some bang energy. Why? Because we’re going to infuse that energy. We’re going to make sure that the mood in the gym is at its peak so you can perform well. â
That electric power is one of the many reasons Jerrell is one of Colombia’s most sought-after personal trainers, but he says it hasn’t always been his plan.
âI always had the ambition to come back to the NFL. I still had my agent, I still spoke with a few teams, but the injury I had. . . it took a little longer to heal than I thought, âhe admits. Instead of dwelling on the injury, Jerrell dived headfirst to help others improve. âWhen I was training I started to see success [for my clients]. At that point, I thought, ‘Dang. It’s cool. I am applying my commitment to training and I am starting to reap the rewards. ‘â
Despite so much success as an athlete, Jerrell says he had doubts when he started personal training. âI was a little embarrassed, I was like, ‘Can I really do this?’ He said. âAs confident as I am as an athlete, it’s such a different job. It is not an easy thing to do. You can end up leading people the wrong way, so you can’t just do what looks like fun. It takes a lot of knowledge about how the body works, and at one point I was afraid to train people. Can I really help these people achieve the results they are looking for? Am I going to help them achieve their goals? “
Fortunately, these fears did not last.
âOver time I realized, okay, I’m actually pretty good at it. As training camps began to develop and [more clients] showed up, I thought, ‘OK, maybe they like me!’ Jerrell laughed.
After about eight months of personal training with API, he was browsing the before and after photos of his clients. Noticing the positive, tangible change he had helped his clients achieve – both in body and mind – Jerrell realized that he was not only an accomplished personal trainer, but that he had found his passion.
âThat’s when I kind of hung up my boots. I called my agent, told him what I wanted to do and he was very supportive, âJerrell says. Although he closed the door on one dream, he had opened another. âSince then, I have not eased off on the gas. It’s my job – it’s my duty – to give them everything I have, âhe says.
Jerrell has stayed true to his word, giving it all not just to his own customers, but to the surrounding community. He and API have partnered with groups like the Boys and Girls Club of Columbia and Big Brothers Big Sisters of central Missouri, as well as local businesses that sponsor API training scholarships.
âAs far as our young people are concerned, we want to allow anyone to have the opportunity to train with us at API,â he says. “Most of the children in Colombia are involved in some sort of sport or activity, and we want to be an asset to those less fortunate.”
The API gives clients the opportunity not only to train, but also to learn why they train in a certain way. âThe way we train is a very collegial style of training, so even if a kid is only here for a month or two, they’ll be able to take away the key pieces of how to train safely and with success, âJerrell explains. âA lot of children have difficulty getting around, so our next goal is to take a bus so that we can take the kids to the gym. “
However, Jerrell’s desire to give back to his community isn’t just about making sure kids know how to exercise safely – he wants to give them every chance to be successful.
âThere was probably a kid in high school who was as good as me,â Jerrell says, âbut they didn’t have the same opportunities as me, or they were just a step behind. I think if they could have had any counseling or training it could have changed their life completely. ”