DULUTH – An assistant coach with the Atlanta Gladiators is being called a hero after he jumped into a river to save a man from drowning.
Coach Brady Leisenring was eating dinner following the Gladiators' game with the Jacksonville IceMen this past Thursday night. He and some of the players were at a restaurant at Jacksonville Landing, on the St. Johns River, downtown.
Leisenring and the players heard someone in distress, shouting.
“We heard ‘help me’ and screams from the water,” Leisenring said. “We saw a man that was panicking and struggling to stay afloat.”
Realizing the man was drowning, Leisenring ran to the edge of the river, thinking only for a split second about the alligators.
"We were looking for the guy, when all of a sudden I hear this big splash," Gladiator's defenseman Colin Sullivan said. "It was Coach Leisenring in his suit pants, and he jumped right in the water, swam out to the guy, was able to control him, got his arm underneath him."
“Before I went in I was thinking about alligators and not wanting to go into that water," Leisenring said, "but in that situation, I think anybody would go... in the water for someone else.”
After jumping in, Leisenring said he not only had to swim with one arm as he brought the man to shore but he had to fight the current as well. While the man was originally over 40 yards out in the water, he said swimming back felt like a mile.
“I’m not as in shape as I used to be, but I had lifeguarded while in high school,” he said. “Luckily we made it back and got close to shore, and if [my team] wasn’t there, I wouldn’t know what would’ve happened.”
Once on shore, the team’s athletic trainer was able to help while the ambulance was on its way.
Sullivan noted that what Leisenring did was a special moment to witness.
"He didn't even think, he just kind of reacted, and he's a super humble guy but he deserves a lot of praise for what he did, it was a pretty heroic thing," Sullivan said.
Sullivan said that the rescued man appeared to be intoxicated - and was naked.
Leisenring said the man told police he was trying to swim across the river to the other side but wasn't strong enough -- going under water at least twice just before Leisenring reached him. Leisenring hasn't heard from the man but said he hopes the man is getting the help he needs.
"In what’s going on in the world today, everyone... can all do a little bit more ... I'm just glad we were in the right place at the right time ... Anyone would have jumped in to help the man.”