PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) —The football field is a classroom of sorts. Many of life’s lessons literally play out when two teams square off.

One local college player from Portsmouth is using the game he loves to teach other children about life so they stay out of trouble. As a teen football standout at I.C. Norcom High School, Jo Hayes had a vision to help others like him. Hayes reveals the handwritten goals on notebook paper that now hang in his bedroom.

“I wrote down, I want to have a camp in Suffolk. It’s in Portsmouth, but it’s still the same thing,” Hayes says with a shrug.

Hayes became a standout wide-receiver at Norcom before making all-conference at Elizabeth City State. Now he’s teaching the art of competition at his inaugural football camp, “Hayes Stacking Dayz.”

“I want to give the kids something to look forward to because I feel like being from the 7-5, there’s not much out here but death and trouble.”

But in this open classroom on a rainy Saturday afternoon, the lesson is work plus dedication equals achievement.

“That’s the difference between a lot of people’s success, honestly, it’s just consistency and discipline”

Dominque Brooks had those qualities as quarterback for Indian River High School. But on the night of October 1, 2021, a bullet took it all away. Brooks was shot and killed in a Norfolk neighborhood.

Brooks’ death is but one reason why Karon Prunty joined his former teammate from Norcom to teach the young, defense against a culture of street violence.

“It’s been quite a few people, but the whole thing,” says Prunty. “I’ve just been positive, just trying to stay on the right track, just try to keep playin’ football.”

Hayes said he got off to a slow start in college and didn’t like where he was going.

“So I started waking up at 5 a.m. every day. Monday through Friday, working out 2-3 times a day. A routine is really what got me here. What separates people is discipline. Are you willing to work? Are you willing to do the things nobody else is wanting to do to get where you want to go?”

And the message for these younger minds resonates a little stronger when it comes from somebody who was in their shoes just a few years ago.

“We are seen more as big brothers. We’re seen more as big cousins, someone who can relate to the kids. You got to have somebody there that’s relatable. Because if you’re not relatable to a kid, it’s going to go in one ear and out the other.”

It’s crucial that positive messages stay between the ears of this future generation, including:

“You don’t have to do what everyone else does. You can honestly be anything you want in this life as long as you’re willing to do what it takes”

To Hayes, it’s about discipline, which separates a life of achievement from a life of crime.