Ex-High school track star making presence felt as Dallas-area cosmetologist

STAR-STUDDED STYLIST --- J. Marie Wimbish, a former high school track and field star, has become a fixer as a Dallas-area entrepreneur. The longtime professional cosmetologist has plans of opening her own salon soon. (Photos submitted by J. Marie Wimbish)

STAR-STUDDED STYLIST — J. Marie Wimbish, a former high school track and field star, has become a fixer as a Dallas-area entrepreneur. The longtime professional cosmetologist has plans of opening her own salon soon. (Photos submitted by J. Marie Wimbish)

FRISCO, Texas — No doubt, Jerri Marie Wimbish gave it her all.

During her days at Westport High in Kansas City, Missouri in the early 1990s, for instance, Wimbish was the catalyst of the Tigers’ track and field team, having advanced to state competition as a senior.

“Even though I did not (win state) in my particular categories, I always gave 100 percent of my full attention and tenacity to the finish,” Wimbish told MemphiSport during a recent interview.

For Wimbish, a Kansas City native who now resides in Dallas, it was the assortment of accolades she amassed in track and field that fueled the perseverance and competitive drive she has come to possess. For starters, Wimbish conditioned and practiced immensely, sometimes as many as five-to-six days per week.

To her credit, that she steadfastly demonstrated the keen ability to thrive as an athlete ultimately benefited her mightily as a rising entrepreneur.

An accomplished professional cosmetologist in the Frisco, Texas area, Wimbish plans to start her own salon suites that would offer stylist rent rooms in the foreseeable future, something about which she has dreamt ever since her teenage days of spending long hours at her aunt’s New Image Salon and Barbershop in Kansas City.

“I spent a lot of time there in my youth learning and observing the teachings on how to run a successful business,” Wimbish said. “I admired and took joy and pride of how the clients came and got services and left with a smile and a complete look of satisfaction on their faces.”

STAR WATCH --- Years before emerging as a licensed cosmetologist in four different states, Wimbish advanced to state competition as a prep track and field standout. Pictured with her is Oribe during a backstage appearance at hair show and training seminar in Miami last year.

STAR WATCH — Years before emerging as a licensed cosmetologist in four different states, Wimbish advanced to state competition as a prep track and field standout. Pictured with her is Oribe during a backstage appearance at hair show and training seminar in Miami last year.

Entrepreneurship, it seems, was a common trend for Wimbish’s family.
Her stepfather for years has owned a Kansas City-area cleaning service. And, because of the vision her aunt developed for meeting the hair stylish needs of consumers, she has adopted the passion to follow suit.

Given the success she has enjoyed during her professional cosmetology stint, it’s safe to assume Wimbish is on the right path to achieving entrepreneurial excellence.

Wimbish8“(My stepfather) made it his mission to work for himself and include his family members in his business,” Wimbish said. “He constantly worked to get contracts on major retail chains and restaurant business throughout Kansas City. He enjoyed the thought of being his own boss and always taught me and my siblings to educate ourselves so that we can learn and grow from others but ultimately seek entrepreneurship.”

After graduating high school in 1991, Wimbish furthered her education, first at nearby Metro Tech Cosmetology, where she earned her Missouri state license in 1992. Consequently, she enrolled at Langston University in Oklahoma, where she earned a degree in Business Management in 1996. From there, she enrolled at Aladdin Beauty College in Plano, Texas, where she completed her studies in 1999.

She earned licenses in Texas in June 2005  to June 2010 and she has resided in Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where she was a cosmetologist/stylist at Michael Scott Salon.

Unlike many of her peers who harbored aspirations of engaging in entrepreneurship, particularly in cosmetology, Wimbish sensed getting a quality education was essential in order to run an efficient business. Wimbish7

“I constantly take continuing education to update my skill level and maintain and improve my clientel base,” Wimbish said. “My clients always appreciate my skill level and eagerness to learn and show them the new trends every season. During my career, I have acquired certifications in relaxing, coloring, extensions for hair and eyes and make-up artistry.   I also worked as an educator for Matrix Loreal.  I taught other stylist product knowledge and how to successfully use the products.  I also performed various techniques, of my talents and craft at Armstrong McCall which is the local distributor for Loreal.”

Wimbish6In addition, Wimbish is licensed to practice cosmetology in Florida, Texas, and California. To her credit, she has earned A Certifications in assortment of areas, most notably Great Lengths, Hair Dreams, Aqua Beauty Line Hair Extensions, Nova Lash Eyelash Extensions, Mizani Relaxer, Iso Permanent Wave, Brazillian Blow Out, Jane Iredale Mineral Make Up, Color Lines Wella, Matrix, Goldwell, Schwartzkoph.

“Kerastase and Oribe Hair Care are my top choices for maintenance and styling,” Wimbish said.

Aside from routinely working for a Dallas-area salon, Wimbish has become a fixture for putting her professional skills on display outside her customary place of employment.

“One of the most rewarding things in this industry that appealed to me was that you can also work outside the salon as an educator of products and or performing and teaching your talents to others at local venues and internationally,” Wimbish said.  “My aunts and instructors always taught me to learn as much as you can about your craft and to always go above and beyond the chair.”

Like track and field, Wimbish acknowledges the same vision and passion for excelling must be demonstrated throughout her professional industry. Wishbish9

“In track and field, there is a lot of competition so it takes a very determined person with a passion for excellence to strive to do the best,” she said.  “You have to continue to work on your personal best to be number one or win your competition.  This need to be the best at what I do in cosmetology is shared with track and field in the same way that there is a lot of competition on every corner.

“What makes me successful is that same determination makes me want to learn more about my trade by constantly updating my continuing education, in trends, product knowledge and of course great customer service,” Wimbish added.  “I make sure I am on top of the latest products, trends, business building skills involving customer care and paying attention to my competition.”

As Wimbish quickly points out, displaying a competitive drive to excel starts — and ends — at the door.

“It is important that every customer is greeted professionally.  The customer should be made to feel comfortable by showing them around your salon,” Wimbish explains. “It’s always a plus to use their name and offer them a robe and/or a beverage.  My consultation with the client is the most important thing of the entire visit.  This is when listening skills must be attentive to the customer.  I always close with product maintenance and when the customer should return.  I always ask how was the service. In closing I always see to it that I walk the customer to the door and tell them it was a pleasure seeing them and giving them a great service.  It is always a plus to send follow up correspondence about their service.  I try to practice this with everyone.  This practice has helped me grow with my clients.”

By and large, Wimbish said her solid professionalism and care for customers are what allows her craft as a professional cosmetologist to stand out above others in the industry.

“My business stands out due to my customer service skills, professionalism, and my determination to learn grow and teach others about my craft,” Wimbish said.  “The facility that I work in has continuous training with outreach events, website, apps to download, professional receptionist, and management and staff.  They have achievements as the Best Salon in Frisco, Texas.”

Among the reasons is that Wimbish — just as she had done in track and field — has gone to great lengths to give it her all.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information about Jerri Marie Wimbish, follow her on Twitter is @jerrimariewimbi, Instagram at JERIMARIBW, and on Facebook under JMarieB. Wimbish. Also, email her at topthishair@yahoo.com. For hair services and appointments, call her at VonAnthony Salon in Frisco, Texas at 972-731-7600.

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist. 

Fitness star Johnny Loper garners national recognition as motivational speaker

Loper3Long before Johnny Loper starred at wide receiver for South Carolina State from 1995-2000, he had lofty aspirations of making an NFL roster, in large part because he wanted to retire his mother from the factory job she had for years in his native hometown.

Fortunately for Loper, the Waynesboro, Miss. native made good on his ambition to his retire his mother, although it came courtesy of a much different route.

Nearly four years ago, Loper’s company, Jaylo Fitness, chose to partner with AdvoCare, a development that resulted in him earning approximately $18,000 within his first month after joining.

TRUE CHAMPION --- Loper, pictured with his wife, Weslynne, has become a fixture in recent months because of his rapid success as an entrepreneur. Loper takes part in regular speaking engagements to discuss health, wellness, and living a carefree lifestyle.

TRUE CHAMPION — Loper, pictured with his wife, Weslynne, has become a fixture in recent months because of his rapid success as an entrepreneur. Loper takes part in regular speaking engagements to discuss health, wellness, and living a carefree lifestyle.

Now that Loper has been afforded more freedom away from his gym and enjoys a mostly carefree lifestyle that includes frequent vacations and more time with his family, the former Arena Football League standout has taken part in another venture he believes will enhance the lives of others.

Because of his continuous success through Jaylo Fitness and Advocare in recent years, Loper, 38, has had the luxury of delivering speeches to an assortment of organizations throughout the Mid-South.

Given the thunderous applauses and favorable feedback he has garnered, his itinerary figures to expand in the foreseeable future.

Just recently, for instance, Loper spoke before approximately 25,000 witnesses during an Advocare Success School event at the Dallas Cowboys’ AT & T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

“A little country boy from Waynesboro, Mississippi was given the opportunity to be center stage addressing an audience that size,” Loper told MemphiSport Thursday afternoon. “That in itself should let anyone know that anything in life is possible if you refuse to give up.”

To Loper’s credit, although he twice attempted to land an NFL contract — with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers — he never wavered with regards to earning a comfortable living.

Following a three-year stint with the now-defunct Memphis Xplorers of the arenafootball2 league in which he earned about $300 per week, Loper consequently started his business.

HOMECOMING --- As an avid motivational speaker, Loper will return to his native hometown of Waynesboro, Mississippi next month to speak with various athletes.

HOMECOMING — As an avid motivational speaker, Loper will return to his native hometown of Waynesboro, Mississippi next month to speak with various athletes.

At times, a regular work day for him lasted nearly 16 hours, a trend by which Loper wasn’t bothered at the time.

“I was actually enjoying life because I didn’t have kids,” Loper told MemphiSport during a February 28 interview. “It was just me and my wife. But when my little boy came along, it wasn’t about me anymore. I kind of had a sour taste in my mouth because my dad had to work all the time. He couldn’t make all of my sporting events.”

Since Jaylo Fitness partnered with AdvoCare in three years ago, Loper and his wife, Weslynne, have benefited mightily with one of the world’s premiere wellness companies, whose endorsers include an array of professional athletes, most notable Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and New Orleans Saints’ Super Bowl 44 MVP Drew Brees.

So much, in fact, that Johnny Loper has gained a newfound passion for sharing his success in front of sizable crowds.

As he tells it, speaking in front of large audiences essentially has become apart of his vision.

“It’s always special when you are presented with an opportunity to help someone else by sharing your story,” Loper said.  “There are a lot of people in this world who are hurting or who are in need of some form of inspiration in order to make it through the day.  I consider it an honor and a privilege to be view as a leader who has the heart of a servant.”

While his requests to give speeches have increased considerably in recent months, Loper acknowledges he doesn’t always know which topics and issues to discuss once he takes the podium.

In other words, he admittedly follows his instincts with regards to grasping his audience’s attention, something his attendees have come to embrace.

“Sometimes, I never know what I’m going to say until I’m in front of the audience,” Loper said. “But I can say that I enjoy sharing my core values with my audience.  At the end of the day, I believe that success comes from strong faith, strong commitment, strong family, and strong love.   I hope that after every speech, the audience looks at me, hears my message, and leave the room motivated by the thought of, “If he can make it, then I know I can make it.”

Among those who routinely make it point to attend Loper’s speaking engagements is his wife Weslynne. According to her, people are amazed at how her husband can freely go about grasping their attention with pure transparency and eloquence.

“I am absolutely so proud of Johnny,” Weslynee said. “He is not only an awesome husband but also an amazing father who is passionate about his family. He also loves helping other families grow. Johnny definitely has a servant’s heart. He is passionate about helping other families become healthier along with financial freedom. When you have better options in life, this definitely will make a family’s dynamics grow stronger. It is a true blessing when you can help others succeed.

Especially when one is from a small, rural town such as Waynesboro, Mississippi.

“There is not a day that goes by that I don’t thank God for the things he has allowed me to experience,” said Loper, who is scheduled to return to his hometown to deliver a speech in September.  “It is those constant thoughts of my hometown and my upbringing that keeps me humble. Those thoughts keep me grounded and fuel my drive to always want to help someone else achieve prosperity.”

Something his mother witnessed firsthand the moment he retired her from her job.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To book Johnny Loper for a speaking engagement, call 901-619-5662. Also, follow him on Instagram at JOHNNY LOPER (@ JAYLOFITNESS) https://twitter.com/ JAYLOFITNESS as well as like his Jaylo Facebook fan page. 

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, email him atandre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist. 

Jackie Jackson destined to capture first political win in County Commission, Dist. 4

New Yard Sign12Jackie Jackson is a Solutions Advisor at FedEx, where she helps its customers save time and money.

Of all the sports in which Jackie Jackson took part while growing up, none of those grasped her interest as much as cheerleading.

Take, for instance, how Jackson went about learning an assortment of stunts and fundamentals as a child long before she took her cheering prowess to nearby Tennessee State University.

 

Two years since Jackie Jackson introduced First Lady Michelle Obama at a presidential fund raiser, she wants to become the next democratic woman on the Shelby County Commission.

Two years since Jackie Jackson introduced First Lady Michelle Obama at a presidential fund raiser, she wants to become the next democratic woman on the Shelby County Commission.

“From early childhood, I remember wanting to cheer,” Jackson told MemphiSport during a recent interview. “I would practice somersaults, jumps and cheers with my friends regularly. I pushed myself to get stronger, jump higher, and slip faster. However, what I quickly learned is that like football, basketball and soccer, being a cheerleader is a team activity. It’s only when the squad collaborated and comprised that we were our best.”

Earlier this year, Jackson submitted her petition to run for the Shelby County Commission, District 4 seat.

Early voting takes place from July 18 through August 2. The general election is August 7.

Having adopted the catchphrase “The Time Is Now…It Does Matter,” Jackson, who lives in Southwind, will be vying to upend commissioner and Methodist Healthcare Foundation director Mark Billingsley, who in January was appointed to the Shelby County Board of Commissioners.

While defeating Billingsley would translate into a  monumental upset, Jackson contends she is a viable candidate to topple the former Germantown Alderman and advocate for District 4, which is comprised of South Cordova, Germantown, and portions of Southeast Shelby County.

“I believe that Shelby County has the potential to be greater,” said Jackson, explaining why she chose to run for a political seat. “While sitting on the sidelines wishing for leaders with integrity, hoping for a trajectory of policies and programs to catapult our city to new levels, desiring role models in government that children can aspire to become, I grew tired and my friends grew tired too. With support and encouragement from my family, friends, colleagues and advisers, I decided to run for this seat.”

GOODWILL HOMES IMPACT --- Jackson poses for a photo with Grizzlies veteran shooting guard Tony Allen during a recent event for Goodwill Homes.

COMMUNITY IMPACT — Jackson, board member for Goodwill Homes, poses with Grizzlies shooting guard Tony Allen. 

Add to the fact that Jackson essentially was provided with a worthy assist, or sorts, from the wife of arguably the most powerful political figure in the world, and it’s no wonder why she is decided to become a public servant.

In June 2012, Jackson was asked to introduce First Lady Michelle Obama during an Obama Victory Fund reception at the Memphis Cook Convention Center during the President’s run for a second term.

For Jackson, that she was afforded the opportunity to meet and interact with the First Lady of the United States is an experience she admittedly will relish for the rest of her life.

“I was staged at the end of a long receiving line of Memphis and Shelby County dignitaries and business leaders waiting for the opportunity to meet Mrs. Obama,” Jackson, a then-volunteer with the Cordova Neighborhood Obama For America (OFA) team, said of meeting Mrs. Obama. “We greeted one another, talked and she held my hand during the short walk to take our places behind stage before our turns to take the stage.”

Before going on stage, Jackson had the privilege of partaking in a personal dialogue with the President’s wife.

“She was warm and personable, while sharing that she and her staff had just arrived in town after attending an A.M.E. conference that same morning in Nashville, where many pastors prayed for her, the President and her family,” Jackson iterated. “Her belief in the power of God was obvious. There was an image of her surrounded by pastors that made its rounds of that prayer event back in 2012.

 

STATING HER CASE --- Jackson believes the Shelby County District 4 race is hers to lose with the general election just weeks away.

STATING HER CASE — Jackson believes the time is now for change and that everyone matters in Shelby County. 

“I was proud to represent Memphis well, yet I was taken aback by this opportunity. Mrs. Obama made me feel as if we’d known each other for years,” Jackson continued. “She encouraged me by stating that there was no need to be nervous. She alluded to the challenges of the President winning and that the work and effort of the volunteers were appreciated.  She was genuine and passionate about the work President Obama was doing and wanted to get done.”

 A cancer survivor, Jackson was the first in her  family to graduate from college (Christian Brothers University). Also, she has a son is in the Navy and a daughter, a Spelman graduate who also works at FedEx.

 

As she continues to campaign for office, Jackson pledges to exhibit the same passion for District 4 residents that Mrs. Obama had demonstrated when they met.

“Government must return to the people,” Jackson said. “I will bring the voice and desires of the people back to the Commission. That starts with listening to my constituents.”

Not only that, Jackson emphasized the importance of women having a voice, particularly with regards to various issues and policies in Shelby County.

Additionally, among her key objectives if elected will be battling for affordable healthcare for Shelby County citizens as well as devising ways to ensure municipalities have the necessary funding to receive a quality education.

“I will work with city leaders to attract jobs and especially higher paying jobs to Shelby County,” Jackson said.  “While there are plenty of opportunities and even more challenges in our county, I will bring diversity of thought and actions. I will be available for my constituents to voice their concerns and enact ordinances and policies that make sense and don’t burden taxpayers.

“Citizens will have elected an advocate that is concerned about the place all of us call home — Shelby County,” Jackson added. “There are many serious issues the commission must decide on. Far too often, small things distract from solving the bigger issues such as blight, access to healthcare for women, and funding for schools. I will keep the main thing the main thing, a government for the people, by the people.”

Spoken like a viable candidate who appears destined to mount an upset.

 

DrePicAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Memphis-based Parker’s Water Ice thriving, now looking to have a national presence

ICE, ICE BABY --- Parker's Water Ice has become a fixture throughout the Mid-South in recent years, most notably at AutoZone Park during Redbird games and the Memphis Zoo. (Photo submitted by Veronica Parker)

ICE, ICE BABY — Parker’s Water Ice has become a fixture throughout the Mid-South in recent years, most notably at AutoZone Park during Redbird games and the Memphis Zoo. (Photo submitted by Veronica Parker)

Veronica Parker-Robinson was raised in Williamstown, New Jersey, an unincorporated community in Gloucester County that is comprised of about 15,567 residents.

Though the rural town is relatively small, Parker-Robinson had a huge impact as a multi-sport athlete.

Growing up, Parker-Robinson was a fixture in array of sports, most notably basketball, baseball, field hockey, and track and field, among others.

COOL TREATS --- Parker's Water Ice serves gelati and boasts well over 24 flavors of soft serve ice cream.

COOL TREATS — Parker’s Water Ice serves gelati and boasts well over 24 flavors of soft serve ice cream.

Field hockey?

“I excelled in field hockey and track,” Parker-Robinson, who relocated to the Mid-South seven years ago, told MemphiSport. “I experienced being Tri-County champ in both of these sports as well as receiving newspaper and college scholarships to play both.”

While Parker-Robinson, a self-proclaimed “lazy athlete,” chose not to partake in collegiate sports, it was her competitive drive as a thriving athlete that ultimately fueled her desire to excel in entrepreneurship.

Parker2Today, Parker-Robinson, along with her younger brother, Therman, are owners of Parker’s Water Ice. Located at 7050 Malco Crossing in Southeast Memphis, Parker’s Water Ice is the only Italian ice store in the Mid-South that specializes in serving gelati and features well over 24 different flavors of soft serve ice cream.

In addition, Parker’s Water Ice boasts a mobile food truck which, according to Parker-Robinson, is its “mini store on wheels.”  Her company has especially evolved as a popular establishment for the Memphis Redbirds organization, considering customers can purchase her products at AutoZone Park. Not only that, Parker’s Water Ice treats are available at the Memphis Zoo.

“We are also known for our gelati which is the layering of Italian ice with serve soft serve ice cream,” Parker-Robinson said.

CHECK OUT PARKER’S WATER ICE ONLINE: www.parkerswaterice.com/

A family-run business whose mission is to provide its customers with high quality products at reasonably low prices, Parker’s Water Ice offers a kosher, fat free, cholesterol free and dairy free Italian ice. Parker’s business also host parties, company appreciations, church picnics, family reunions, offices parties, community sporting events, not to mention fairs and carnivals. Also, this company allows consumers and Mid-South-area businesses to hold fundraisers.

As Parker-Robinson tells it, it took her to actually fail in order to grasp a thorough appreciation for savoring success.

COOL FANS --- Parker's Water Ice has become one of the favorite treats for local baseball fans who attend Redbird games.

COOL FANS — Parker’s Water Ice has become one of the favorite treats for local baseball fans who attend Redbird games.

“During my senior year I placed second (in a race), getting nipped at the line in the qualifying meet for state,” Parker-Robinson explained. “I did not lose that race because the other girl was faster than me. I lost because I was out of shape and ran with the proverbial monkey on my back for the last 100 meters. All season long I was able to win my races doing just enough, but just enough was not enough when I faced better competition.

“What really bothered me was the fact that I should have won that race,” Parker-Robinson continued. “If I could come in second doing the minimum, what could I have achieved doing the maximum?  I decided from that day, I would no longer live with what if. Even in failing, at least I would know the end result and have given my all. That is why I did not run in college. I knew I had to choose between being a full time student or a part-time student or a part-time athlete. I knew myself. I was honest with myself and, at that point of time in my life, I was not the type to balance both.”

With sports all but a distant memory, Parker-Robinson consequently managed to fulfill her academic obligations, earning degrees in Journalism (with an emphasis in broadcasting) and Sociology from Rutgers University. Fortunately for Parker-Robinson, her academic success proved just as beneficial to her entrepreneurial success than her plethora of accolades as a multi-sport athlete back in the rural setting of Williamstown.

Athletics and academics, nonetheless, helped instill in her the essential attributes to thrive as a flourishing business owners, something about which Memphians have embraced wholeheartedly in recent years.

Parker-Robinson said plans are in the works to add a second location likely in the Bartlett or Cordova area sometime in March 2015.

“I think I was born with the gene, like my father,” Parker-Robinson said of her entrepreneurial success.  “My dad would purchase boxes of candy and my youngest brother and I would take the candy to school and sell it.  Years later it took shape into our family business.”

A business that figures to have a viable presence in Mid-South for quite some time.

EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information about Parker’s Water Ice, call 901-624-7676.

 

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Memphian Sharon Sutton’s custom made handbags starting to have global presence

NFLThe start of the NFL training camps are less than one week away.

For Sharon Cole Sutton, that means she is about to encounter what will seem like an early Christmas season.

Owner of One Of A Kind Designs, Sutton is widely known throughout the Memphis for her custom made handbags featuring the logos of NFL teams as well as other pro sports and college programs. To her credit, her craftiness has paid dividends mightily within the past year.

Don’t expect that to change anytime soon.

Among the reasons is that Sutton has increased her hand bag repertoire. Nowadays, the longtime Shelby County Sheriff Department employee routinely assembles lunch boxes and backpacks of various cartoon characters. SpongeBob, she said, has been arguably her top seller.spongbob

Aside from that, Sutton, much like last year, is preparing to engage in what will be an extremely busy time for her as the NFL season looms.

“I mean, it’s non-stop,” Sutton told MemphiSport on Tuesday. “I’m going to have to get someone to help. I have people come up all the time and ask, ‘Can I get, can I get, can I get?’”

 

Sutton, a native Memphian, designed her first handbag last September, days after Week 1 of the NFL season had concluded. Now, it seems, she can barely find time to rest on her scheduled off days, in large part because a majority of time is spent filling orders, a trend Sutton describes as a “good problem,” or sorts.nba-logo

“I’ve started something,” Sutton said. “When I started it before, it didn’t kick off how I wanted it to. So I did a lot of weddings. I was doing designs for weddings, wedding dresses, table dressings, cooking the food, you name it. I still do weddings.”

Now that Sutton has revisited the notion of designing NFL handbags, it appears that scheduling weddings has been put on hold, at least for the time being. That’s because her clear handbags have become undoubtedly her hottest-selling item, a trend Sutton doesn’t anticipate ending anytime soon.

“People are calling and getting on the Internet daily to order stuff,” Sutton said. “Sooner or later, I’m going to have to call in (people) to help out. To be honest, this is something I had recently started doing. And I went home one day and I told my son, I’m going to buy some fabric, make a sports bag, take it to work, and make somebody mad.”

baseballAs it turned out, Sutton’s handbags ultimately caught the attention of several of her co-workers, many of whom told others about her product. Nearly one year removed from having produced her first handbag, it seems Sutton can’t make her product fast enough for the number of orders she fields daily. Besides handbags, which range between $25 and up, she also makes custom made NFL belts, which sells for about $20. Her clear tote bags, she said, have especially become ideal for avid NFL fans who attend games regularly, primarily because league officials allow spectators to bring clear bags into stadiums.

NFLbagsSutton produces between 25-to-40 handbags per week.

Of the NFL’s 32 teams, she said customers mostly order Dallas Cowboy handbags, win, lose, or tie.

“Everybody loves Dallas,” Sutton said.

“They just don’t stop,” Carnes said of the numerous calls and emails he witnesses daily. “I have several people to call from overseas. And that’s why I say I’m going to get some help out, to help cut them and stitch them. One bag takes an hour to make and a lunchbox takes about two hours.”

Although Christmas is nearly five months away, Sutton expects sales to continue to increase considerably in the coming weeks, in large part because of the excitement football season creates. As for her countless requests from individuals overseas, she said she expects to honor such requests once she garners her trademark and establishes an online site where consumers can pay via the internet.Lakers

SF“It’s a blessing from God,” she said, adding that various retailers have began contacting her about her product.”

Having worked for the Sheriff Department for the past 24 years, Sutton plans to retire sometime next year so she can focus exclusively on her flourishing business.

“Whether these bags retire me or not, I’m retiring,” Sutton said. “I’ll be able to get a lot done. Christmas orders are already coming in.”

Blame that good problem on the NFL, which is about to raise the curtain on another season.

EDITOR’S NOTE: To order One Of A Kind Designs hangbags, call 901-489-1178 or email Sutton at: sewshell@bellsouth.net.

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Are you in good hands with this Tiger hoops season ticket holder?

Memphian Realis Sanders, a 1994 Whitehaven High graduate, not only is an avid basketball fan as a longtime season ticket holder of the University of Memphis men’s basketball team. But he is arguably RealisSeatone of the Bluff City’s top insurance agents. That begs the obvious question: Are you in good hands? If not, give him a call at 901-794-4953 today or visit his office at 2650 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Suite 1310 Memphis, Tennessee 38118. SandersFamilyRealis

Could Memphis gymnast phenom Jordyn Sanders be the next Gabby Douglas?

Just recently, Memphis-area entrepreneur Realis Sanders was away from his Allstate Insurance agency in Southeast Memphis. He figured he might as well spend what was left of his weekend watching ESPN.

 

STAR WATCH --- In her brief on the Junior Olympic circuit, Memphis gymnast Jordyn Sanders' skills have drawn comparisons to Olympic champion Gabby Douglas.

STAR WATCH — In her brief on the Junior Olympic circuit, Memphis gymnast Jordyn Sanders’ skills have drawn comparisons to Olympic champion Gabby Douglas.

His daughter, Jordyn Sanders, had other ideas.

“I end up watching (University of) Alabama and Georgia gymnastics,” Realis Sanders said with a grin.

He didn’t seem to mind passing up watching SportsCenter highlights. Among the biggest reasons is that Sanders household has become accustomed to watching their oldest daughter transcend into one of Memphis’ brightest amateur gymnastics athletes.

At just nine years of age, Jordyn Sanders’ dazzling stunts in gymnasiums throughout the Mid-South have gone virtually unnoticed on the Junior Olympic circuit and she hasn’t shown any signs that she will slow down anytime soon.

RAISING THE BAR --- As a member of the U.S. Women's Gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Gabby Douglas won gold medals in both the individual all-around and team competitions. Douglas is the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion. (Getty Images Photo)

RAISING THE BAR — As a member of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team at the 2012 Summer Olympics, Gabby Douglas won gold medals in both the individual all-around and team competitions. Douglas is the first African-American gymnast in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion. (Getty Images Photo)

From the time her parents were initially bewildered when they discovered their daughter cartwheeling and treating her bed frames as a balance beam five years ago, Jordyn is not only reaping the benefits of the lengthy hours she devotes to gymnastics on a weekly basis, but she is making a strong case that vying for a spot on a future U. S. Olympic team is an attainable feat.

To her credit, Jordyn has had such an astounding impact as an amateur gymnast that her skills have afforded her to compete in numerous cities, most notably Chicago, Chattanooga, Knoxville, St. Louis, Baton Rouge, Clemson, S. C., Birmingham, and Nashville, among others.

“I enjoy watching her because I find myself holding my breath when she’s out there,” said Kimberly Sanders, Jordyn’s mother. “I’ve found myself making body jerks because I see how much effort she puts into it.”

Having first engaged in gymnastics when she was four years old, Jordyn practices between 18-to-20 hours per week. She began competing two years later when she became a Junior Olympian through an organization sanctioned by USA Gymnastics, whose primary responsibilities include selecting and training the U.S. Gymnastics Teams for Olympic Games and World Championships.

“She definitely has a passion for (gymnastics),” Kimberly Sanders, a mother of two daughters, said in assessing the strides her daughter has made in her brief time on the circuit. “You would think (after practicing) she’s come in here and crash. But I don’t think she realizes she had been in the gym for four hours.”

To get a clear understanding why the Sanders deem it necessary to embrace their daughter’s heroics as a gymnast, look no further than the tumultuous events that mired their family hours after Jordyn’s birth.

In December 2004, Jordyn was born 26 weeks prematurely and weighed only one pound and 14 ounces. As her father recalls, he could basically hold his daughter in “one hand,” a heart-retching encounter that brought his wife to tears Sunday afternoon as she reminisced about whether her baby daughter would make it out of the neonatal intensive care unit alive days after she was born.

“A lot of things went through my mind,” Kimberly Sanders said as she wiped away tears. “I just know it was time to have a lot of faith in God. She had a lot of obstacles. What was going through my mind was that uncertainty.”

At times, Realis Sanders sensed he had to be just as strong for his wife, considering doctors had informed them of what appeared to be an assortment of unfavorable prognosis.

“They said she would have a number of physical challenges, visual challenges, psychological challenges and all that,” he said. “You immediately have to rely on your faith and you hope that’s not going to be her feat. Just because they said all of that doesn’t mean that’s going to be her path. It’s another world out there when something like that happens. They didn’t know if she was going to be able to walk or speak. They gave us quite a few worst case scenarios and she defied all the odds.”

Strapped to feeding tubes and oxygen devices, Jordyn remained in NICU for 69 days. Still, the Sanders never gave up a hope on their firstborn whom they labeled as a “miracle child.”

That’s because today, a 63-pound, energetic Jordyn — to the delight of her loved ones — have weathered arguably the grandest obstacle of her young life, an inspiring, memorable occurrence that left her mother crying tears of joy as she and her husband reclined in their living room in downtown during an exclusive interview with MemphiSport.

“It’s been a positive progression from (the day she was born),” said Kimberly Sanders, the newly-installed principal at Raleigh Bartlett Meadows. “No setbacks. I mean, she defied the odds.”

For the Sanders, high school sweethearts whose paths first crossed in the mid-1990s while students at Whitehaven High, having witnessed their daughter overcome what undoubtedly was a potentially fatal situation is what makes investing so much time to her craft as a flourishing gymnast much more relishing. After all, the odds were stacked solely against Jordyn when she was too young to remember.

Looking ahead, Jordyn’s itinerary continues to fill up, given she competed in a state meet in Memphis recently and then attended a camp last month at the University of Alabama, where she and other athletes had the chance of staying in dormitories. For a healthy, vibrant gymnast who continues to draw rave reviews in arenas throughout the region, Jordyn appears destined to evolve into a household name just like Gabby Douglas. Douglas caught the sports world by storm when she became the first African-American woman to capture gold medals in both the all-around and team competitions in the 2012 Summer Games.

“She’s the best gymnast I’ve seen,” Jordyn said of Douglas as she took to the balance beam in the center of the living room. “She’s very good. She’s very popular.”

Given the disheartening obstacles she had to conquer as an infant child, chances are Jordyn could be next.

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA’s Southwest Division. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist

Memphian Alena Kelley a thriving fashion designer in Dallas, surrounding areas

DALLAS — Alena Kelley was only six years old at the time.

FASHION AND BASKETBALL --- Memphian Alena Kelley used basketball while living in Binghampton as a child to inspire her to fulfill her dream as a fashion designer. Today, Kelley is co-owner of VogueGirlz in Dallas, Texas. (Photos submitted by Alena Kelley)

FASHION AND BASKETBALL — Memphian Alena Kelley used basketball while living in Binghampton as a child to inspire her to fulfill her dream as a fashion designer. Today, Kelley is co-owner of VogueGirlz in Dallas, Texas. (Photos submitted by Alena Kelley)

Still, despite her young age, she was just as electrified and enthused about what transpired to unite the citizens of Memphis in March 1985.

That year, the Memphis State men’s basketball team mounted arguably its most memorable run in school history, upending Penn, UAB, Boston College and Oklahoma to solidify the school’s second Final Four appearance and first in 12 years.

SIBLING SUCCESS --- Kelley and her older sister, Petra Thomas, started VogueGirlz in February. Their business has since become a success throughout various parts of the United States.

SIBLING SUCCESS — Kelley and her older sister, Petra Thomas, started VogueGirlz in February. Their business has since become a success throughout various parts of the United States.

Kelley, like many Memphians, was left gazing at the television in wonderment from the living room of her home in the heart of Binghampton. Like thousands of Tiger fans, Kelley embraced wholeheartedly the unity and pandemonium that was brought to Memphis.

“I remember vividly when the Memphis State basketball team went to the Final Four,” Kelley, a native Memphian, told MemphiSport Tuesday night from Grand Luxe Café in North Dallas. “I just remembered the excitement from my family cheering on the Tigers and seeing them glued to the TV. From that point, I knew I wanted to be a Tiger.”

Like many of her peers — most notably fellow Binghampton products Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway and former Universit of Tennessee star Tony Harris — Kelley used basketball as an outlet, or sorts, to vacate poverty-stricken Binghampton. Growing up, she spent years attending summer camps and playing pickup games Lester Community Center, which was roughly one block from her home.

As Kelley tells it, the neighborhood community center not only kept her out of harm’s way in a setting where senseless crimes were a customary trend, but it provided her with the competitive drive to fulfill her dream as a fashion designer.

SHOP ONLINE NOW WITH VOGUEGIRLZ AT: www.iamvoguegirlz.com

Today, Kelley is co-owner of VogueGirlz Accessories and Apparel. Based in Dallas, VogueGirlz offer ladies high-quality merchandise and gives them a distinctive look for casual and business settings.

CALIFORNIA ANGEL --- Kelley's career began 11 years when she relocated to Los Angeles, where she enjoyed a brief acting career.

CALIFORNIA ANGEL — Kelley’s career began 11 years ago when she relocated to Los Angeles, where she enjoyed a brief acting career.

Also, consumers are given the luxury of revitalizing their appearance with trendy clothes and accessories. Having opened for operations in early February, VogueGirlz has quickly flourished as one of the hottest black-owned establishments in Dallas and the surrounding the areas.

Four months removed from its inception, VogueGirlz is now starting to have a viable presence throughout the Southern and Eastern regions of the country. Not bad for a business that appeared difficult to come full circle seven years ago.

“I made attempts in 2007 to start a clothing line, but because of a lack of resources, we walked away from it,” said Kelley, who runs VogueGirlz with her older sister, Petra Thomas. “We gave it a shot, but it wasn’t our time.”

Fortunately for Kelley and Thomas, that certainly isn’t the case today.

Seven years ago, they were left selling clothes from the trunk of their vehicles in hopes of witnessing their business soar to immense heights. Today, however, their newly-established venue is drawing rave reviews from hundreds of thousands of consumers, many of whom have bought into VogueGirlz’s mission of providing customers with a wide selection of fashionable clothing and accessories at the most affordable prices.

RISING STAR --- Since moving to Dallas four years ago, Kelley has become a fixture in the fashion designing industry.

RISING STAR — Since moving to Dallas four years ago, Kelley has become a fixture in the fashion designing industry.

“It was funny because people were like, ‘This girl is hustling,’” said Kelley, recalling her initial attempt to launch her fashion designing business. “I took my student loan money and bought some merchandise and sold it out of my car. We didn’t get the building at Wolfchase (Memphis’ Mall). This is our second go around and this time we are hitting the ground running.”

Long before Kelley — who holds a degree in Fashion Merchandising and Marketing from the University of Memphis — witnessed the progression of her up-and-coming clothing business, she admittedly had lofty dreams of becoming an actress, in large part because of her admiration for the renowned actress and super model Brooke Shields.

Luckily for Kelley, her break in Hollywood surprisingly happened within weeks after she relocated to Los Angeles in October 2003. Among the first celebrities she met upon her move to L. A. was singer and songwriter Isaac Hayes, who ultimately introduced Kelley to Tom Cruise.

Cruise, it turned out, was so intrigued by Kelley’s persona that she appeared in the movie, Collateral. Consequently, Kelley would later make appearances on The Bernie Mack Show, Gilmore Girls, Fat Albert The Movie, and OWN TV’s show entitled Help Desk.

For Kelley, though her move to the West Coast was short-lived — she resided in L. A. for four years — such memorable experiences, coupled with the competitive drive basketball created ultimately enabled her to become a more aggressive entrepreneur.

“With basketball being my first venture in being competitive, it taught me to never give up,” Kelley, a former Memphis East High graduate, said. “It taught how to be driven. I would say it carried over into my whole lifestyle. You have to know your competitor. You also have to have an eye for your surroundings. When you fall down, you get back up.”

To her credit, Kelley acknowledges that while she was raised in a poor community in Memphis, she always exhibited the notion of steadfastly seeing from beyond where she was.

VIABLE IMPACT --- Petra Thomas, like her younger sister, Kelley, has had a key role in the rebirth VogueGirlz this year.

VIABLE IMPACT — Petra Thomas, like her younger sister, Kelley, has had a key role in the rebirth VogueGirlz this year.

In a nutshell, Kelley always sensed there was more to life outside of the Bluff City, regardless of how much unity the Tigers brought to the city in the mid-1980s.

“I was (in Binghampton), but I knew I didn’t belong there,” Kelley said. “I knew that God had placed me in Binghampton for a reason. I always knew there was a world outside of Binghampton. I always thought we had money. I thought we were rich. Even though I was there, my thinking was outside of Binghampton. I was always a dreamer. Even when I was in the classroom, my mind was somewhere else. I just refused to be a product of my environment.”

Now that VogueGirlz is starting to evolve, Kelley has commenced to delve off into another business venture, one that has benefitted her considerably in recent weeks. Kelley has joined World Ventures, a home-based direct selling business in which individuals can become an entrepreneur and part of our travel club community.

Come Friday, Kelley will fly to Las Vegas to promote her latest business project, one that has already given way to her having an immediate impact since her arrival.

“I’m already leading the pack,” Kelley said. “It’s a growing company. They’re looking for people who are driven, so I’m looking to take my entrepreneurship to another level. I love it. I’ve already got my wings, which means I’m already qualified to make income.”

In assessing her career, particularly how she has managed to persevere through an assortment of challenges in recent years, Kelley is confident her best days as a rising entrepreneur are ahead of her.

So much for once selling clothes from the trunk of her vehicle.

“Since February, we’ve generated at least five figures,” Kelley, a mother of one, said of her business. “What we do is that we’re not on the payroll with VogueGirlz. We put the money back into the business. We want to grow the business because we want to tap into a market we haven’t tapped into yet. We know it’ll do well because of our taste.”

A taste that, to her credit, was first discovered while playing pickup basketball games at nearby Lester Community Center in the mid-1980s.

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for MemphiSport. To reach Johnson, email him at andre@memphisport.net. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson also covers the NBA’s Southwest Division. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.

Memphian Kylan Chandler flies thousands of miles to support son on AAU hoops circuit

On Sunday afternoon, Kylan Chandler loaded his vehicle with a few belongings then took a long road trip with his son, Kennedy, a 616-mile drive from Memphis to Charlotte, North Carolina .

TIRELESS SUPPORT --- Since marrying former Hamilton High basketball player Kylan Chandler, Rosalyn Chandler has steadfastly aided her husband in supporting his son, Kennedy, who is a fixer on the AAU basketball circuit. (Photos submitted by Rosalyn Chandler)

TIRELESS SUPPORT — Since marrying former Hamilton High basketball player Kylan Chandler, Rosalind Chandler has steadfastly aided her husband in supporting his son, Kennedy, who is a fixer on the AAU basketball circuit. (Photos submitted by Rosalyn Chandler)

A commute that took approximately 11 hours, Chandler and his son arrived to the East coast at around 3 a.m. Monday.

For Chandler , a former Memphis entrepreneur, he’d be the first to tell you that traveling across the country with his son is something about which he’s come to embrace in recent years.

Kennedy Chandler is an 11-year-old standout for Nashville’s “We All Can Go All-Stars” 11-and-under AAU basketball team that competes nationally. He has been a force as the team’s floor general and facilitator, averaging 18 points, seven assists, four rebounds, and four steals. 

To get a thoroughly understanding of how Kennedy has managed to enjoy success in recent years, particularly on the amateur hoops circuit, look no further than the unyielding support his father has demonstrated since his son first reached for a basketball.

Kylan Chandler, a former Memphis Hamilton High basketball player who was prep teammates with former University of Arkansas star and ex-NBA player Todd Day in the late 1980s, was granted custody of Kennedy when he was five years old.

No doubt, the father-and-son union has since become virtually inseparable.

For starters, Kylan decided to permanently shut down his business as a popular South Memphis-area restaurant owner, in large part so he could devote a majority of his time to Kennedy. As he tells it, he’s been blessed “beyond measures” ever since.

Now a manager for an ever-evolving company in Southeast Memphis, Kylan’s schedule is now flexible in that he is allowed to travel to practically each of his son’s practices and games.

HIGH RISER --- Kylan Chandler, a former Memphis business owner, was granted custody of his son when he was five years old. This year, he has flown more than 10,000 miles to watch his son play AAU ball.

HIGH RISER — Kylan Chandler, a former Memphis business owner, was granted custody of his son when he was five years old. This year, he has flown more than 10,000 miles to watch his son play AAU ball.

Whether by plane, train, or automobile, Kylan has become a fixer in gymnasiums throughout the country, regardless of where “We All Can Go All-Stars” are scheduled to play.

So far, the native Memphian has used more than 10,000 frequent flyer miles this year, traveling to places such as Indianapolis, Louisville, Atlantic City, San Diego, Chicago, and Hampton, Virginia, among others, to watch his son in action.

This weekend, “We All Can Go All-Stars” will play in the AAU National Tournament in Cocoa Beach, Florida.

Surely, Kylan will be on hand in sunny Florida to witness his son put his skills on display once again, let alone continue to build a camaraderie among his peers.

“It’s mainly for him,” Kylan told MemphiSport during a telephone interview Monday afternoon from Charlotte . “God has given him a gift to play basketball. I’ve always told him if that is what he wants to do, we’re going to go out all out. If it takes me to sacrifice things, that’s what I’m going to do.”

To his credit, Kylan certainly has made an assortment of sacrifices to ensure his son is provided with the necessary exposure to someday play at the collegiate level.

Aside from ceasing operations of his business, Kylan covers all of his son’s travel expenses, most notably hotels, food, and equipment. In return, though, Kennedy is expected to put forth his best effort on and off the court.

WE ARE FAMILY --- Besides strong support from his wife, Kylan's parents also have been a fixer at Kennedy's games.

WE ARE FAMILY — Besides strong support from his wife, Kylan’s parents, who recently celebrated 50 years of marriage, also have been a fixer at Kennedy’s games.

Especially off the court, where it counts the most, his father often tells him.

“He’s a student athlete first,” Kylan said of his son, who attends Briarcrest Christian School, a Christian-based private institution in East Memphis. “That’s why I enjoy (traveling with him). I mean, I played (basketball), but I didn’t have a lot of opportunities as him. You’ve got a lot of camps. But it’s also about life’s lessons. You’re learning to build relationships with other kids. My wife and I enjoy it. We do a lot of sacrificing. I’ve always been able to do it, to take off from my job. But even if I couldn’t, I’d use my vacation time. As long as he loves it and enjoys the game, that all that matters.”

While traveling nationwide with Kennedy is a huge financial sacrifice, the presence of seeing his father in the stands is priceless.

“One time, my wife (Rosalind) called me while I was work and said, ‘Kennedy is having a bad game,’” Kylan recalled. “It wasn’t really a bad game. But when I got there, it was a 180-degree turnaround. I think that’s very important in a kid’s life, because they need that motivation. When a kid sees a dad comes to a game, that motivates them.”

Long before Kennedy came along, Kylan was raised in the heart of South Memphis. What he deemed most intriguing about his upbringing is that unlike many of his peers, he had both parents in the home, something he acknowledged enabled him to become the devoted basketball dad is he.

Kylan’s parents celebrated 50 years of marriage in February.

“I came from a basketball family,” Kylan said. “When I came up in South Memphis, (my dad) always came to my games at the YMCA and took me to and from practice. He came to all of my games. But my dad played too. He played all sports. He was always there for me. Since I was brought up like that, that lets me know that’s the way I need to bring up mine.”

Although traveling across the country can become exhausting at times, Kylan said seeing his son — whose young skills have drawn comparisons to Kyrie Irving of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers — play and flourish on the court is what he relishes the most. As he tells it, he hopes his personal life lessons with his son will inspire others to exhibit a tireless effort in the lives of their children.

“It’s very important,” Kylan said. “What you do can have an affect on your son. Every son wants to be like their dad if he’s involved in his life.”

In a nutshell, as the father goes, so does the child, Kylan hinted.

“If I’m yelling and acting up, he’ll start acting that way,” Kylan said. “Like any other parent, I’ll lead him on. That’s what parents do. But it’s very important to stay humble, because if I don’t, he’ll follow in my footsteps and be that way. I can’t do things that are out of character. I think that’s very important to a kid’s life.”

When the AAU portion of the season ends, Kylan said his son’s primary focus will be basketball, unlike in years’ past when he played both basketball and football.

“He had played football since the second grade and was MVP of his (youth) league and the Super Bowl,” Kylan said. “This year, he just wants to stay focused on basketball. That tells me right there that he’s serious. He has some great opportunities ahead of him.”

Surely, dad will be right along for the ride.

Whether by plane, train, or automobile.

 

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for Memphis port. To reach Johnson, email him atandre@memphisport.net. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA’s Southwest Division. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist. 

Former Arkansas prep hoops standout recalls life’s tough obstacles in tell-all book

DALLAS — Lucas Armstrong relocated from Pine Bluff, Arkansas to Dallas, Texas approximately six years ago.

He was destined to do better for himself.

LucasLike many who move from a rural town to a large market, Armstrong initially found it difficult to become acclimated to his new establishment.

Fortunately for him, someone along the way enlightened him that big things happen in Texas.

For Armstrong, 30, it seems he has steadfastly embraced such a notion, considering he appears to be adjusting comfortably to life in Big D.

Never mind the tumultuous encounters life often dealt him while growing up in Pine Bluff. Born prematurely at just one pound, doctors told Armstrong’s mother that he would not live beyond his third birthday, in large part because they sensed he would endure an array of mental challenges.

“They told my mom that I wouldn’t pick up on things as fast as other kids,” Armstrong told MemphiSport during a recent interview in North Dallas. “I guess that’s the whole defect of premature kids in those days. They didn’t know what to expect.”

But just as he’s done virtually his entire young life, Armstrong demonstrated the keen desire to defy the odds.

So far, it’s safe to assume he’s managed to hold his own quite nicely.

So much, in fact, that Armstrong has shared his life story in his first book entitled, “Your Story Is Not Your Story: From Adversity To Success Through The Hardships Of Life.” Published late last year, Armstrong’s 10-chapter book depicts everything from his stormy relationship with his father to his analysis on the importance of one seeking proper mentorship.

Long before he evolved into a rising self-published author, Armstrong had a fond admiration for basketball and sensed that he could ultimately used the sport as an outlet, or sorts, to landing a free college education.

SURVIVOR OF THE FITTEST --- Lucas Armstrong relocated to Dallas from Pine Bluff, Arkansas six years to have a better life for himself. He has since written and published his first book.

SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST — Lucas Armstrong relocated to Dallas from Pine Bluff, Arkansas six years to have a better life for himself. He has since written and published his first book.

However, after enrolling at Pine Bluff High, Armstrong was cut from the team as a sophomore, a development that left him somewhat distraught and dejected and unfulfilled.

“Man, that was devastating because I had played basketball from like middle school on up,” Armstrong said. “I was hurt. I felt like I was better than some of people who got picked. So I went to another school.”

That school was none other than nearby Dollarway High where, to Armstrong’s credit, he made his presence felt as a combo guard.

He was only 15 years old at the time, 12 years removed from what doctors had sensed would be his death sentence as a toddler.

“I was a die-hard basketball player, man,” Armstrong said. “That’s what I wanted to do. I wasn’t going to give up on my dream of playing basketball. It felt good (making the team). But I know me. I wasn’t going to stop until I got want I wanted.”

Years before his hoops prowess was ever discovered, Armstrong endured an array of hardships, most notably a rocky relationship with his father, which he outlines in his book.

For starters, Armstrong’s father got custody of him when he was a youngster. Thinking his son was gripped with an assortment of mental challenges, he made repeated attempts to garner a monthly check as a way to cash in off what presumably was a child with special needs.

“Teachers would tell him that I wasn’t doing well academic wise,” Armstrong explained. “For 10 years, I went to a psychiatrist and took a series of tests.”

He mastered them all, thus erasing any speculations as to whether he was a mentally-challenged child.

“Where people say you’re weak in, I was strong,” Armstrong said. My communication skills were pretty good.”

So favorable, in fact, that Armstrong felt compelled to recall the highs and lows of his life in a tell-all, self-published book.

So far, he’s already been invited to several speaking engagements throughout Dallas’ Metroplex to discuss and promote his book. Looking ahead, he plans to promote his book throughout the Mid-South, particularly at his alma mater, the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Armstrong is a 2007 graduate of UAPB with a degree in Business-Marketing.

“Life experiences and my passion for people who are going through things,” said Armstrong, when asked what inspired him to write his book. I also felt like God had me go through things for a reason. I want to be a beacon of light for other people to let that know that if Lucas can make it, they can make it.”

Let alone, think big in the process, just as he’s doing in Big D.

DreColumnAndre Johnson is a senior writer for Memphis port. To reach Johnson, email him atandre@memphisport.net. Based in Dallas, Texas, Johnson covers the NBA’s Southwest Division. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.