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Texas H.S. Football Players Spend Spare Time as 'Bully Guards'

The old "football players are bullies" stereotype doesn't apply at Johnson High School in Texas anymore.

At the start of this school year, three football players at the San Antonio school were recruited by the school's counselor to help protect a freshman against a wave of constant bullying.

By November, the program was such a success, it expanded to incorporate nine more football players and four more bullied students in need of protection, according to the San Antonio Express-News.

The three original "Bully Guards"—seniors Cohner Mokry, Ryder Burke, and Austin Carson—were all recognized Monday at a school board meeting by their district superintendent, Brian Gottardy.

Counselor Carri Elliott originally came up with idea of the Bully Guards program after learning of a 15-year-old who'd been repeatedly bullied at school and "just wanted one good day," according to the paper. After the student had a face-to-face confrontation with the bullies that didn't settle the situation, Elliott called in the big guns: The school's football team.

After all, football falls just short of a religion down in Texas.

Mokry, Burke, and Carson would accompany the freshman to each of his classes, leaving their own classrooms a few minutes early to ensure they were at his classroom door right at the sound of the bell. The freshman, who Burke described as "culturally different" and someone who spoke English as a second language, soon began fitting right in with the three football players, according to the paper.

"We went through high school and have had a great experience," Burke said to the paper. "It should be everybody having that great experience."

Next year, 18 football players at Johnson High will help eight incoming freshmen as part of the program, Elliott said.

Of course, the Johnson football players aren't the first athletes to take a stand against bullying. Last year, the National Hockey League's Nashville Predators filmed a public service announcement aimed at stopping bullying in schools. A few of the National Football League's Philadelphia Eagles appeared on an episode of The View last year that featured a 13-year-old boy discussing his experiences with bullies, too.

But this is the first time I've heard of a high school program tapping their athlete base to prevent the spread of bullying in school. Based on the success Johnson High's program has seen, it likely won't be the last.

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