FORT WAYNE – Michael Ledo might be the first to admit he made mistakes as a young, burgeoning football player coming out of Bishop Luers in the early 2000s. Academic issues kept him from heading to Ohio State to play football, and he also became a father before finishing his senior year at Luers.
But those experiences have inspired him in his business career, one that also benefits young athletes in Fort Wayne and continues to grow as the company he co-founded, Athletes With Purpose, has a grand opening Saturday of its new facility in the SportONE/Parkview Fieldhouse.
I wasnt a bad kid, but I just made poor decisions, and I mismanaged my opportunity, Ledo said Wednesday inside AWPs portion of the new basketball/volleyball facility, a 57,000-square-foot center on 3946 Ice Way, near Lima Road and Fernhill Avenue.
Ledo, who married his sons mother, began to turn things around when he came home from junior college in California to play football at Saint Francis. He became the schools all-time leading rusher (since surpassed by Daniel Carter) then, upon the advice of his uncle, local sports agent Eugene Parker, Ledo went to New Orleans to train with speed coach Tom Shaw. While training with future NFL draft picks and top-level athletes, Ledo discovered a different level of training.
He would tell you, too, that he also discovered his calling.
Ledo began to form a business plan based on the training of young athletes that involved the mental and emotional, as well as the physical, and how they could avoid some of the same pitfalls as he had.
When I saw it and how they train, I started writing in a notebook about how can I use training to minister to athletes, Ledo said.
When he got back to Saint Francis, he teamed up with co-founder Bryan Bourcier and AWP was born. It was housed at Saint Francis, Taylor-Fort Wayne, The Dome (now The Plex South) and most recently in The ASH Centre.
Through partnerships with Parkview Hospital and SportONE Ortho Northeast, AWP has added orthopedic services and rehabilitation to its performance/training services.
It has grown even more because we have moved into a state-of-the-art, first-class facility, said Ledo, who got a business administration degree from Saint Francis in 2006. We are trying to have a strategic collaboration with all three organizations that provide excellent sports medicine in Fort Wayne that has never been provided. It is all in one shop of what sports medicine is.
The building includes a restaurant, with a hotel and hockey facility next door. AWP will also play host to a football academy, starting Wednesday, at Plex South, Ledo said he might like to have a bigger facility one day to house football and baseball players.
If it was up to me, this would have happened a long time ago, Ledo said. It hasnt been 100 percent how I wanted (AWP) to progress, but I am definitely thankful. I am excited about what is yet to come.
This place allows us to diversify our business even more when it comes to adult fitness, athletic rehabilitation center and our academies. It diversifies us because of the different athletes that we are training.
Now a TV personality on Indianas NewsCenter, Ledo said a big part of his business development came from the influence of the men in his life, including his father, uncles and pastor, and the books about leadership they suggested. Even the name of the company came from Ledos early adult life.
I always wanted to be an athlete with a purpose, Ledo said. I never talk about my athletic past. I want to be such a good businessman and a servant leader that people dont even remember my football career. I want them to see my success on helping others.
I am an entrepreneur, and when it is all said and done I want to be one of the most influential people in sports to come out of this community.
I have been accused of being a visionary, and I am strong on having visions and doing what God has called me to do. I found out what I am good at. I know sports, and I am passionate about mentoring kids. I drive the bus, but Gods grace fuels it. What really makes this work is the people who have gotten on the bus.