Molding great husbands and fathers on the gridiron
Published 9:41 am Wednesday, September 6, 2023
Former Rebels running back leads Regents School’s new football team
By Marie McMullan
“It makes it extra special to now be in Oxford with my family and be at this great Christian school. Being this close to Ole Miss is really special.” – Jo Jo Pearson
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When Regents School of Oxford decided to implement a football program, Athletic Director Brandon Beckett knew the school had an important search ahead.
Regents, a Christian school in the College Hill neighborhood of Oxford, had witnessed a growing student body with a sustained interest in sports for years.
Opened in 2000, Regents educates students from kindergarten through 12th grade, offering sports including volleyball, lacrosse, basketball, tennis, cheerleading and swimming. Football – a staple for most athletic programs – was notably missing from that list.
“The biggest challenge anyone has had was finding the right person to lead the program,” Beckett said. But a former Ole Miss football player seemed to be a perfect fit for that task. “JoJo [Pearson] made that not a challenge at all,” said Beckett.
Like students at Regents, JoJo Pearson had experienced a Christian education. He graduated from Hebron Christian Academy in Pheba before starting a winding collegiate path that would lead him to Ole Miss football.
Starting as a freshman at Ole Miss, Pearson did not start his college career as a student-athlete. The next year, he transferred to the University of Memphis to play for the Memphis Tigers for two years.
That’s where he caught former Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze’s eye. Pearson transferred back to Ole Miss to be a running back for the Rebels.
“It makes it extra special to now be in Oxford with my family and be at this great Christian school,” said Pearson. “Being this close to Ole Miss is really special.”
But unlike Pearson, Regents’ new football team was not very familiar with the game.
Regents is starting their program young, with players currently in sixth through ninth grade playing in a junior high league. “We are starting with them younger and building the program over the next several years,” said Pearson.
“We intend to grow from there and eventually have varsity football in the coming years. It’s really good because they are very impressionable and coachable.”
“We didn’t want to put them in an unfair position,” said Evan Coughlin, an upper science and theology teacher at Regents.
Administration and coaches plan for Regents to play varsity football in 2025. Outfitting a football program from the ground up has been no easy task, especially with many young players who have never played before.
“The challenges are now the understanding of the game with the players and getting used to playing together,” said Pearson.
When asked why develop a football team specifically, Beckett shared that the school needed more boys’ sports to create a balance between boys’ and girls’ athletics programs.
“[We are] making sure we’re well-balanced offering boys and girls sports,” he said.
For Pearson, he believes that the sport also teaches effort, attitude, and toughness. At Regents, the Christian school’s beliefs bleed into their athletics, too.
“Young men see what it means to live a good, strong Christian life,” said Pearson. “Part of what football provides is the ability to have a strong camaraderie in a group and learn what it means to play for one another.”
The Lions played their first game against Carroll Academy Aug. 17. Although they lost 40-18, excitement and pride filled the bus on the way home.
For Pearson, football is more than the game’s score. “I hope that in 10 or 15 years I can reconnect with them and learn that they are great husbands, fathers and pillars of their community,” he said.
Regents’ athletic director believes that these young players have a role model in their coach. “Coach Pearson was not only a great fit to restart our football program, he was also a great fit as a teacher in our upper school,” said Beckett.
“He believes in Regents’ mission and our vision for our students. We knew that he would pour into our students, not just on the field with our athletes, but more importantly, in the classroom and in all aspects of campus life. He loves the lord, and he will point our students to Christ as he teaches and coaches at Regents. This is what we all try to do everyday on our campus.”