ST. PAUL, Minn. - Friends and family came to honor a deserving man.

“He needs no introduction in this room, but this is Coach Leo Jackson,” said St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter at the Jimmy Lee Rec Center.

For the last eight years, Coach Jackson has volunteered coaching football to kids there. He also helps attract college scouts to players from schools that don’t always get the attention they deserve.

“How many hours a week do you spend volunteering?” Mayor Carter asked Jackson.

“During the football season, that's peak. That's Monday through Saturday, so probably around 20 hours,” Jackson said.

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter (L) and volunteer Coach Leo Jackson (R). (Photo: KARE 11)
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter (L) and volunteer Coach Leo Jackson (R). (Photo: KARE 11)

Coach Jackson thought he was there just to be interviewed by Mayor Melvin Carter about how he stresses academics while mentoring teens through sports.

“Because at the end of the day, sports just kind of fades, right now I can barely run at 35. But my education sticks with me and it's why I am where I am today,” Jackson said.

Jackson serves as a father figure to many of the young men he reaches.

“Other than my mom, he's been the other biggest person in helping me get to where I am today,” said James Williams, a senior at Cretin-Derham Hall, who will play football next year at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

It can often be a thankless role.

“But I just want to tell you, this is not one of those thankless days,” Mayor Carter said. “We just wanted to get together, and say thank you from the bottom of my heart, from the bottom of our community's heart – and I think there are some other folks in here who wanted to say thank you as well.”

With that, two women walked into the room carrying an oversized Super Bowl 52 ticket.

“You've done so much for this community and the NFL and the host committee would like you and your very favorite person to go to the Super Bowl,” said two members of the Super Bowl Host Committee.

Leo Jackson, a volunteer youth football coach from St. Paul who donates 20 hours a week helping kids, was surprised with two Super Bowl tickets. He will take his 7-year-old son, Leo Jr. (Photo: KARE 11)
Leo Jackson, a volunteer youth football coach from St. Paul who donates 20 hours a week helping kids, was surprised with two Super Bowl tickets. He will take his 7-year-old son, Leo Jr. (Photo: KARE 11)

Jackson will take his 7-year-old son, Leo Jr.

“I'm crying with joy right now,” said Jackson.

The Super bowl Host Committee partnered with the NFL to provide the free tickets to shine a spotlight on community service.