There is no greater feeling for a young athlete than looking like a pro while they are playing their favorite sport. As youngsters, we grew up watching every move that our favourite athletes took; from the way they played, to the way they wore their uniform, we tried to imitate their style and performance the best we could. There is no denying the desire for almost every young athlete is to want to look like a pro, but the problem lies within the expenses and price range for top of the line sporting gear. Former NFL offensive tackle Larry Tharpe is well aware of the financial battle many families face in regards to being able to obtain proper equipment at an affordable price for their young superstars. 71 Athletics is a footwear company founded by the Macon, Georgia native in an attempt to provide families with affordable high quality football and athletic shoes.
“71 Athletics is a footwear company that I came up with by having the opportunity of working in Detroit with a PAL football league, which was a league with a lot of kids coming from single parent homes. A lot of parents are already struggling to sign the kid up and then you tell them they have to outfit them, buy them shoes and things of that nature in able to compete,” Tharpe explained.
“We had mothers telling us about buying $50-$60 shoes that will be worn for 8-10 games at most so when I came up with 71 Athletics I found a manufacturer that could produce decent shoes that could be sold at an affordable price. I wanted to be able to put something out there that I would be proud of, even in the NFL,” he continued.
In many communities organized sport is a primary way to keep the youth active while engaging them in a competitive and educational state of mind. In states such as Michigan especially around the Detroit area, locals have been faced with tight financial stability as of late, with many questioning the city’s future and importance to the American economy; a circumstance that is far out of reach for locals and youth looking to contribute and connect within society, something that can be found through organized sport.
“My goal is to give everybody an equal opportunity in whatever it may be because sports is huge for the community and bringing people together. That’s the one time whether you dislike somebody or not, you both have the same goal and that’s to win. It kind of blends us together, so I saw an opportunity there,” says Tharpe.
Faced with many adversities on his way to professional football, Larry Tharpe gives credit and praise to those around him who gave him the opportunity to live the dream so many young Americans dreamt about.
“Well it’s important to me because somebody gave Larry Tharpe a chance so I believe in paying it forward. Somebody gave me the opportunity and we always forget about those we leave behind,” the offensive tackle mentioned.
“I had not even played one down of college football going into the spring and Rob Ryan had just got hired to our coaching staff and saw me running and said to me ‘You can go to college and get a job or you can play this game that pays you a nice ransom,'” he elucidated.
“So I perfected my craft and the rest was history.”
Although Tharpe chose to pursue his dream of playing professional football, he encourages and supports education as it is an essential tool to becoming successful.
“I’m one of those guys that understood that hard work pays off because nobody’s going to give you anything, but if you work towards something it can happen,” Tharpe explained. “I don’t talk against school because it’s essential, but they can go together, school and athletics go together, that’s why we’re called student athletes and student comes first, it always does,” he proceeded.
“My goal behind it was to help somebody, inspire somebody to get out here and do some things.”
One of the beautiful things about minor league organized sports is the equality that comes with playing within a team. Things like matching uniforms quickly eliminate all outside factors of the game in regards to the financial situation of any given family. At the end of the day the better player will have the most drive and determination, something Larry Tharpe says he quickly came to realize when looking into 71 Athletics.
“Wearing uniforms cuts down on the demographics so it comes down to skill and who the better athlete is, not what you can afford to buy or what your mother can afford to buy you, it comes down to talent.”
Aside from providing the youth with quality but affordable football cleats, Larry hopes to host various football camps to teach the kids not only football fundamentals, but the importance of hard work, drive and self motivation. For Larry Tharpe, 71 Athletics is only the start of making a positive and effective impact on minor sports, not only in the Detroit area, but nationwide.