NEW ORLEANS — Jamal Pettigrew is a standout tight end on the St. Augustine High School football team, one of the most prominent teams in the city and a perennial playoff contender.
The 6-foot-6, 229-pound 4-star prospect is also on his way to LSU next year, where he hopes to spark the Tigers offense.
Pettigrew is the No. 7 tight end in the nation, but to some children in the area, he’s already their No. 1 hero.
Early last week, Pettigrew joined some of his teammates at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School in the Lower Ninth Ward. They gave toys to elementary school students and spent time with the young ones around the holidays.
A rewarding experience doesn’t do it justice, explained Pettigrew, who a week later remains amazed by the impact he had with New Orleans’ youth.
“It was definitely a great experience,” Pettigrew told SEC Country. “I look forward to doing more things like it. I loved seeing people and the smiles on their faces and all of that. I caused that smile, and I would love to put more smiles on people’s faces.”
St. Augustine defensive coordinator Matt Brown’s mother works at the charter school. After she presented the idea to her son, he did the same to some of his players.
Immediately, it was met with great anticipation.
Pettigrew realizes he’s not only one of the star football players in New Orleans, but a nationally-known recruit and a future piece of the hometown LSU Tigers. To be a prominent figure in the community is a must.
“A lot of them are going to remember knowing a guy who was an LSU commitment and came to their school to give back and give them a chance to have a smile on their face,” Pettigrew explained. “They’re going to remember that someone like me knows about them and cares about them.”
Following an afternoon at the school, Pettigrew was adamant this would not be the only time he’d give back to the community.
While he continues to brainstorm other ways to continue these efforts, Pettigrew maintains an absolute open mind about it, whether it’s now, at LSU or even beyond.
“They loved the presents and were very happy about us coming to the school, to play with them and to talk to them,” he said. “The teachers were proud of us and the principal was proud of us. We gave back and thought about them and took the time out of our days to spend time with those kids, and it was definitely a good experience overall.
“I’m definitely down for anything. Whatever ideas are presented me, I want to give back. I am always down for it and willing to do anything.”
One potential idea is a mentor program.
Brown’s mother was so swept away by Pettigrew and his teammate’s efforts that she believes it should become a regular activity.
Leave it to Pettigrew to already count himself in.
“The teachers thought we could come back to do a mentorship program with the young boys at MLK,” he said. “I’m definitely going to try and do that and help those boys and try to help them form into young men. I want to help out with those kids and I have some more ideas.”
Really enjoyed giving gifts and spending time with these kids ?? pic.twitter.com/VNH50RWBHg
— D.Christmas-Giles (@_DChristmas) December 18, 2015