Pride Teacher Athletes

Coach Eric Johns receives a pass during a game for Jacksonville State University. Leesville is proud to boast a number of former college athletes on the teaching staff.

When we think of athletes in school, we think of student-athletes. However, do we ever think about the teachers that used to be student athletes?

The Pride family consists of many “teacher athletes” — teachers who thrived in sports through high school and elevated their game to the collegiate level.

Rachel Gehret: Physical Education (Jonathan Spear)

When Ms. Rachel Gehret accepted a full ride scholarship to the University of Louisville, her dream of becoming a college athlete had come true. However, her success didn’t come easily. Years of hard work and dedication were needed for her to finally achieve her ultimate goal.

In high school, Gehret was a three sport athlete who dominated the playing field, becoming first team all state in volleyball, basketball, and track and field. Though she was an elite athlete in all three sports, one sport was the most important to her: track and field.

Gehret loved the competition and rewards track and field offered. “It was competitive with other athletes, but at the end of the day, your results are always a result of the work that you as an individual put in, because ultimately you are competing against yourself,” said Gehret, via email.

In her high school career, specializing in jumping events, Gehret was named female athlete of the year in her district. She also won triple jump as a sophomore at states and won high jump at Penn Relays during her junior year.

After years of training, and official visits to a several colleges, Gehret committed to the University of Louisville on a full ride scholarship. The “perfect fit,” the Cardinals possessed a strong team atmosphere and a jumps coach who was extremely knowledgeable and invested in building the program.

Though she had taken her talent to the next level, the hard work had only begun. Gehret underwent physical and mental grind to satisfy her goals. “Every single day was a grind. Not just physically. A major component of track and field is the mental aspect…I had to be sure to believe in myself and my abilities,” said Gehret, via email.

The grind, however, didn’t stop on the track or after practice. For Gehret, the grind never stopped, and she had to live up to her high standards for academics in the classroom. “There was a huge responsibility/sense of accountability not only at practice, but academically as well,” said Gehret, via email.

Through her successful career of track and field at Louisville, where she specialized in jumping events (high jump, long jump, and triple jump), Gehret piled up the accolades and the accomplishments never stopped:

• College – NCAA Post-Graduate Scholarship recipient
• Red and Black Post-Graduate Scholarship Recipient
• NCAA Track and Field High Jump All-American
• National All-Academic Honors
• University of Louisville Athletic Department Honor Roll Red and Black Scholar
• Four-time Team Outdoor Big East Champions
• Conference Long Jump Champion
• Conference Triple Jump Champion
• Two-time Conference High Jump Champion
• Big East Female Field Athlete of the week
• Big East Most Outstanding Field Performer

During her distinguished career at Louisville, Gehret competed against the best athletes in the nation and built strong connections to last her a lifetime.

Now, a physical education teacher at Leesville Road High School, Gehret stays connected with the sport any chance she gets.“I am still in contact with several coaches from my college. I’ve volunteered and helped work meets at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill to stay involved,” said Gehret, via email.

Finally, looking back on an incredible and coveted career on track and field, Gehret has no regrets. A firm believer that everything happens for a reason, Gehret agrees that every trial and tribulation, as well as successes, have taught her invaluable life lessons.

As advice to anyone striving to reach a goal, she offers some motivation: “What I would want to tell others though, is to truly believe in yourself. Don’t let your mind get the best of you. Don’t ever let anybody tell you you can’t do something. If you have the desire and the work ethic, eventually you’ll get to where you are supposed to be, be it academically or athletically. And most of all, don’t take it too seriously, enjoy the ride!”

Christopher “Eric” Johns: ISS Teacher (Baldwin Bell)

In 2008, Eric Johns was a 6’3, 240 pounds tight end for the Jacksonville State University. However the road to success began many years before Johns went to college. The physical and mental strain of the life of a student athlete was difficult and didn’t allow much free time. His strong passion and love for football goes all the way back to his high school years.

While attending Brantley County High School, Johns excelled in football as a tight end; football wasn’t the only thing on his mind during high school. Johns’ hard work ethic was also reflected in his grades; he put forth the same drive and determination he used on the football field in the classroom.

Johns received the following accolades in high school:

All region 2AA TE in 2003, 2004, 2005
2nd Team All-State TE 2004,
1st Team All State 2005

Johns’ achievements got him noticed by colleges. He received a scholarship to play football at Jacksonville State University, a Division I college. When asked why he elected to go to JSU Johns said via email, “I chose JSU because it was a program on the rise and wanted to be a part of the building process.”

The schedule of a student athlete in high school was hectic in itself, but the life a student athlete in college was even more strenuous. “Most people only think about the time that student athletes spend at practice but practice is actually just a small fraction of the time.” said Johns, via email.

Johns attended pre- and post-practice treatments, individual meetings, team meetings, weight training sessions, film study, mandatory study halls– all on top of this he had classes and normal practice. There was little free time to actually be a “college student.”

To stay connected to the game Johns is an assistant coach to the Leesville Road High School varsity football team. The experiences Johns has been a part of gives him the ability to share knowledge and wisdom to his players. Eric Johns doesn’t only want to be remembered as just a coach, but as a mentor, too.

As a teacher and coach Johns pushes his students and players to strive for greatness, engraving that grades come before sports. “Johns has kept up with my grades and my personal life, asking how everything is going and constantly pushing me to be my best; that’s been a real help for me,” said Landon Choboy, sophomore on varsity football.

When asked what he would change or do differently in his past, Johns responded with, “I wouldn’t change a single thing about my experience at Jacksonville State University. All of my experiences both successes and failures taught me a lesson in some fashion that has allowed me to be able to pass on knowledge to other student athletes.”

Johns believes everything happens for a reason and would rather learn from his mistakes than change them.

Eric Johns was a great student athlete — a role model to today’s generation of student athletes. Not only should student athletes strive to be like Johns, they should also look up to him as a role model.


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