When Tevin White attends personal training sessions at Team Ascension in Stafford County, the North Stafford sophomore football standout receives more than guidance on the gridiron.
White said he and other Northern Virginia and Fredericksburg- area youth are elevated mentally, physically and spiritually by the teachings of Kevin Johnson and his staff.
White isn’t a fan of 7-on-7 spring football, so he focuses on track and field during the spring.
The coronavirus outbreak has postponed and may end his season on the track, so White said his sessions with Johnson are paramount as he prepares for a breakout junior campaign with the Wolverines.
White was recently rated a four-star recruit by 247sports.com and he holds scholarship offers from the University of Georgia among other major college programs.
Johnson has mentored running backs of White’s ilk in the past, including current Penn State freshman Devyn Ford and former PSU teammate Ricky Slade.
The list also includes former Virginia Tech and Colorado ball carrier Travon McMillian who is now a part of Johnson’s staff after a brief stint in 2019 with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
“I’ve been through the entire recruiting process talking to different coaches and having big-time offers and having exposure at a really young age,” McMillian said. “I can help guys with their recruiting process and what that process looks like.”
McMillian said he focuses on demonstrating some of the “little things” that make a difference. In addition to the weightlifting and speed training that’s available, McMillian talks to White and others about their football IQ—how to recognize a defensive front, different coverages and knowing how to pick up a blitz.
He also gives them information on how to present themselves to college coaches.
McMillian and close friend Da’Shawn Hand, who is now a defensive lineman with the Detroit Lions after starting for perennial power Alabama, went under Johnson’s tutelage as middle schoolers in Prince William County.
“I’m trying to give them something I pray is an extension of the values their parents are already teaching them,” Johnson said. “It’s a very high-character atmosphere.”
Johnson said his faith was tested during a stretch when he bounced his business around from outside at Embrey Mill Park and Smith Lake Park in Stafford County to the garage in his home.
But no matter where he’s gone, youth have flocked to him.
“It was a pretty quaint setup,” Johnson said of his garage facility. “I had so many kids coming in and out of that house neighbors thought I was doing Herbal Life or something.”
Johnson said while his home was effective, the space he’s in now—in a business park off U.S. Route 1—is more conducive.
The grand opening was held in March.
Johnson has approximately 70 youth across multiple sports that come to him for training sessions. He’s been forced to limit his group sessions to less than 10 because of recent recommendations from the federal government during the coronavirus pandemic.
Johnson said that’s caused a hiccup in operations. But the stint he spent searching for a home for Team Ascension increased his ability to endure a trial.
“I learned you don’t need more to be thankful, you just need to be more thankful,” Johnson said. “I was able to re-galvanize and circle the wagons and get my feet back under me. I see that people will support you regardless if they see the value in what you’re doing.”
White said he’s definitely seen the value in training under Johnson. He was Ford’s backup as a freshman and last season he emerged into a threat as a runner and receiver out of the backfield.
Georgia extended him a scholarship offer before his sophomore season. He’s since added offers from Boston College, Duke, Indiana, Maryland, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Temple, Virginia and West Virginia.
White is looking to build on his sophomore season in which he had a modest 641 total yards (419 rushing, 222 receiving) and five touchdowns.
“The two things for me that I work on with KJ are weightlifting and explosiveness,” White said.
White said two of his teammates and many others around Stafford attend sessions and are aware of the benefits of Team Ascension.
McMillian and Johnson are joined as trainers by Mike James, who is currently in Turkey playing professional football, but is an integral part of the setup.
Johnson said the ultimate goal is to see youth become well-rounded individuals. He said the last thing he’s interested in is their physical development.
“When you’re investing in our most precious resource, and that’s our children, people will support you,” Johnson said. “It’s just been a great opportunity to affect the community in a positive way, and be a part of the solution as opposed to being a part of the problem.”