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Epileptic East Bay high school football star hosts skills camp for kids

East Bay football star hosts skills camp
East Bay football star hosts skills camp 03:38

DANVILLE -- On Sunday morning In Danville, kids participated in a skills camp created by a local high school football superstar.  Marco Jones is one of the most coveted college recruits in the country but, growing up, there were questions about whether he would even be able to live a normal life.

If you don't know the name Marco Jones, you can be sure that every major college football team in the country does. The senior linebacker and tight end for San Ramon Valley High has offers from more than 30 colleges, including schools like Michigan, Alabama, USC and Texas.  

But, on Sunday, it was his team on the field at SRV.  At the inaugural Marco Jones Skills Camp, former players and coaches recruited by Marco put kids, ages 8 to 13, through a range of activities: From speed and agility drills to a spirited game of dodge ball all under the watchful eye of the camp's founder.

"He's a big inspiration," said 10-year-old Dominic Lastrap. "I mean, I've known him for a while.  He's one of the people I look up to."

"He has 5 a.m. workouts that he does!," said Marco's grandmother Shelley Graham, laughing.  "It's just amazing.  Most people don't do that!  He's really dedicated."

As bright as Marco's future appears, it didn't start out that way.  At age 3, he was diagnosed with epilepsy, suffering grand mal seizures at an alarming rate.  

"It was a very traumatic experience for my wife and I, especially," said his father, Anwawn. "Waking up when he's three years old to him having a grand mal seizure is not what we anticipated."

"It's scary," said his mother K.C. "And not being able to help your kid is maybe one of the worst things, the worst feeling."

They did find help and, at age 13, the problem cleared up, as it does for about 70 percent of patients. While most of the participants were able-bodied, Sunday's camp was dedicated to a program called "Helmets4Helmets," which gathers autographed sports equipment to raise money for kids with epilepsy.  

"Luckily I grew out of it," said Marco. "But there's some people who aren't as lucky to grow out of it and so it's a foundation that gives helmets -- soft helmets -- to kids with epilepsy to protect them if they have a seizure; protects their head if they fall."

Marco still has a big decision ahead of him.  Where he decides to play next will affect every aspect of his future and it is now a healthy future that his parents are thrilled to see.

"It's surreal," said Anwawn, sighing. "My wife and I often pinch ourselves, like, is this for real?  We're lucky that, first of all, he's an unbelievable human being.  I'm watching him walking around here with a smile on his face the whole time, watching kids have fun.  It makes whatever decision he makes easy.  I mean, he can't go wrong."

Marco's mom said his success has only increased his ability to inspire those struggling with the condition.

"Now, if they see that someone like Marco -- that everybody knows -- says 'Oh, I had epilepsy too,' it makes them maybe feel a little bit more normal."

The path to professional football is a tough one and there are no guarantees but if it's true that overcoming adversity makes a person stronger, Marco Jones clearly has a leg up on the competition.  

The Helmets4Helmets foundation was created by Cal Bears assistant coach Aristotle Thompson, whose son is also dealing with epilepsy. For more information about the program, visit the website at:

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