Mark Isom’s goals seemed simple, but they were not.

He wanted to play football in college and then, hopefully, in the National Football League, however, there were steps that had to be taken to get there. One of the first steps for Mark was to decide where to play football in college. Well, really, before that was, where to go to college?

Having drawn attention to his skill on the field during his days at Carter High School, just a few miles down the road from Mossy Creek, Carson-Newman certainly was the closest and a very appealing option.

“To become a student at Carson-Newman, I don’t know how I got in,” Isom said, stating some of his test scores were not all that great, but people believed in him, believed not only in the student-athlete he could be, but the man he could become.

“I came here to Carson-Newman as a student-athlete and had ambitions of playing professional football,” Isom said. “And hoping I could be the first in my family to graduate from a prestigious school like Carson-Newman.”

God has a purpose for us all and it often is not the one we think. Isom’s time on the field at Carson-Newman was impactful and played a key role in the tremendous success of the Eagle football program in the 1980’s. He did not, however, make it to the NFL, injuries ended that possibility.

Adversity builds character and strength. It teaches us things, like, while we may not be able to control what happens to us, we can control how we respond.

Isom did not leave Carson-Newman with a path to the NFL. He left with four years’ worth of time, close friendships, effort, life lessons, adversity and success, and a degree in business management. That was his path. That was his purpose.

In the summer of 1984, Mark started working with a local janitorial service company as a janitor. Today, he is the owner of a janitorial service and building maintenance company – Premiere Building Maintenance Corporation located near the downtown area of Knoxville, TN.

“My staff doesn’t like to hear me say this, but I am a janitor,” Isom said. He has been a janitor for 40 years now and has owned his own company, Premiere, for 28 of those years. He has built his company from just a few staff members to more than 500 employees company wide with clients in different states including  Tennessee, South Carolina, Indiana and Georgia.

They are part of who he is; what he is. They are part of his purpose.

As owner of Premiere, the employees are His Team. “No one,” he said. “Sees me changing light bulbs or mowing grass or emptying trash cans.”  “That”, he says, “is because of the work that those 500 folks do every single day.”

In 2004, Mark was named the “Tennessee Small Business Person of the Year”. In 2018, Premiere earned a national award for a business of its size from the National Minority Supplier Development Council.

“I came to Carson-Newman as an athlete and I came here to play football,” Mark said. “I left here a student, a graduate of this University. Not everybody has that opportunity. And some who do, don’t make it.”

That is one reason Isom remains so involved in his alma mater. Knowing what students learn at Carson-Newman, from his own personal experience, Mark has hired more than 40 students through the years to work in his company.

“I never thought I could go to college and be a student,” he said. “I thought maybe I had a chance to go to college and be an athlete. … Having avenues for those students, finding ways for them to get in and finding paths for them, this is how we can be successful for those students.”

Team always has been a big part of his life. As an athlete, a student and now a business owner.

When he was at Carson-Newman Mark was a leader on the Eagle football team. Today he continues to host reunions of those same teammates, classmates and lifelong friends each year during the fall season. The bond is obvious. Some of these men, many who have not seen each other in more than 30 years, cry tears of joy when they see each other again at these gatherings.

It is the same with his staff, the employees of Premiere, are a team.

“I am the head of the company, so I get the accolades,” he said. “I get the complaints too, but I get the pats on the back. But whatever we accomplish, we accomplish as a team. All of the folks around me and all of the opportunities God has given us, that is the whole part. I am just a piece.”

A piece, with a purpose.

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