Sargent, a Jacksonville Jaguar, helps Boys & Girls Club kids

Mekhi Sargent, right, encourages young Kenario to keep his eye on the ball. BERT BUDDE/Keys Weekly

NFL running back Mekhi Sargent was a Key West Conch before he became a Jacksonville Jaguar, and he hasn’t forgotten his roots. 

Sargent faced some pint-sized defenders Friday morning, when he hosted a free “NFL Football Experience” for kids from the local Boys & Girls Clubs at George Mira Field in Key West. 

More than 120 kids, 6-12 years old, flooded the field after a quick pep talk from Sargent in the bleachers. “Are y’all ready to have some fun?” Sargent yelled. “That’s not loud enough, are you ready to have some fun?” The kids responded with a roar as they descended the bleachers and piled onto the field, talking as much football smack as they knew — and as much as the adults would allow. 

Sargent told the Keys Weekly that he still has loads of family and friends in Key West, and he tries to come home as often as his schedule allows. 

For more than three hours, Sargent led the kids through football fundamental drills.

“We set up stations to teach the kids quickness and footwork, a three-point stance for blocking, hand-offs, pass-catching and an angling drill to teach kids the quickest way to cut the distance and catch someone,” said Sean Condella, who coached a 12-year-old Sargent in Key West Youth Football. 

Condella was on the field Friday, along with several other volunteers, including current Key West High School senior football players Andre Otto and Kevon Mills. Some of Sargent’s former high school teammates also volunteered to help lead each station, including Zack Hughes, Terrance Smith, Dorian Cannon, Bubba Marius, St. Pierre Anilus, Stephen Jones, Eli Williams and Kentrell Freeman.

“Mekhi was definitely a standout, even back in youth football,” Condella recalled. “But he also understood, even at that young age, that there’s always room for improvement. I’ve been mentoring him since he was 12, so when he mentioned he wanted to do something to give back to the Key West community, we were able to set this up with the Boys & Girls Club.

“Ms. Joan Leggett at the club is phenomenal. She even brought the kids down from the Big Pine club. The kids all had a blast. It was a great day and I was glad to have been a part of it.”

Sargent graduated Key West High in 2016. In his senior year, he rushed for 2,094 yards and 27 touchdowns for the Conchs, Marc Morehouse wrote for the Iowa Gazette in 2019

Sargent then played football for Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa in the junior college, or “juco” system before becoming a star at University of Iowa.

“Mekhi will be 25 in October. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Tennessee Titans last year, then with the LA Rams in the middle of last season and joined the Jacksonville Jaguars this year,” said Condella, who said Friday’s “NFL Experience” with Sargent likely created about 120 new, young Jaguars fans. 

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.