COLUMBUS, Ga. – A former NFL player is sharing his experiences to inspire students at St. Anne Pacelli Catholic School. New Pacelli defensive coordinator Mark LeGree is working to bolster an inclusive and hardworking culture for all students.

Coach LeGree was like any other student at Pacelli in 2007. Upon graduation, LeGree signed on to play football at Appalachian State University, where he excelled and caught the eye of NFL scouts. LeGree played for the Seattle Seahawks among other teams, and he spent some time in the Canadian Football League as well. The 2011 5th round draft pick is now back in his hometown at his high school alma mater teaching and coaching students from ages 4-18.

“I went home to my brother and I said guess who our PE coach is,” senior Tameya Maxwell said. “And he said, ‘oh my gosh that is so cool.’ And I said, I know right?”

Coach LeGree says he wanted to come back to Columbus because of the personal connection.

“I  want to be the coach I wanted in high school,” LeGree told News 3. “I just really want to help this team and school out a lot. I’m just trying to be the best role model I can be. I love it here. I didn’t think I’d love it this much.”

Students praise their P.E. coach for taking a hands-on, innovative and inclusive approach to teaching.

“He’s here to kind of learn with us too, not just teach the class,” freshman Leila Wheaton said. “[He’s] someone you can look up to. It’s really cool to see if he can come from here to being an NFL player, than anyone can do what they want to.”

The freshman wants to be a dancer or actress when she grows older. However, she’s not going to say no to learning from a star athlete who ran in her shoes not too long ago.

“[I want to] show them that it can actually happen, and I think that’s one of the cool things of me being here,” LeGree said. “I did make it for the short time that I played, but it can happen. And I think when they see that first hand, it inspires them a lot.”