Tulsa's Mabee Babies

Tulsa, OK – TULSA, OK Robert Meachem, who will play in the Super Bowl Feb. 7, is admired for his talents as a wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints. But in his home town of Tulsa, the 6'2" 210 pound athlete is a "Mabee Baby" to Jo Bright, director of The Salvation Army North Mabee Boys and Girls Club and a mentor to club members. Comparing statistics furnished by the NFL to records kept by The Salvation Army, if an athlete has played any sport as a member of the North Mabee club, his chances of playing for the NFL are five times greater than a football player on a Division I college team. Members of the North Mabee club also have a better chance of succeeding in life than non-members from the economically disadvantaged neighborhood of North Tulsa. Club alumni have become doctors, lawyers, successful businessmen and journalists, according to Bright....

The club, located in a neighborhood with a median household income of $19,145, less than half the national average, has sent seven former members to the NFL in the last 23 years: Spencer Tillman, San Francisco 49ers and Houston Oilers; Renaldo Works, Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins; Aaron Lockett, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Thomas Hill, Green Bay Packers; Robert McQuarters, NY Giants and Chicago Bears (McQuarters played for the Giants in the 2007 Super Bowl and the Giants won); Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys; and Meachem.

Meachem said Tuesday he was in trouble "a lot" as a youth, but was only caught once by Mrs. Bright. "She gave me a long talk that was like a whoopin," Meachum said. "The North Mabee club was like a home away from home. Mrs. Bright pushes you to be the best you can be both in academics and sports. She's like a mother to the kids at the club. For example, if you had an anger problem she would help you with it. Growing up, we were very competitive and I really hated losing. I still hate losing, but the club helped me learn to control myself," Meachem said.

Statistics on kids aged six to 12 (ages of the club players) making it into the NFL aren't available. But NFL research shows that the probability of a Division I player making it to the pros is .06 percent or six in 10,000. About 100 kids play football in the North Mabee Boys and Girls club every year, according to Bright. Of the 2,300 kids who have played in the last 23 years, .30 percent of total players have made it into the NFL making it five times more likely than a Division I player making into the NFL.