Atlanta Gladiators coach saves struggling man from river

- Gladiators were celebrated for their bravery in the face of danger and now a coach from the Atlanta Gladiators is being recognized for his.  

Atlanta Gladiators Assistant Coach Brady Leisenring said he and some other members of the hockey organization were celebrating a victory over the Jacksonville Icemen with dinner Thursday night at the Jacksonville Landing when they heard a man screaming.  

"We started hearing, 'Help!' and you know, 'Help me!  Help me!'" Leisenring recalled.

He and the others ran outside to see a man flailing in the water about 150 yards offshore.  

"He got caught in the current," said Leisenring.  "He was going up and down and fighting for air."

Leisenring said he immediately took off his shoes and suit jacket, climbed over a barricade and started to swim towards the man.  He worked as a lifeguard for two summers as a teenager and said while he never had to deal with anything this serious, his training kicked in.  

"I got to the man and told him to relax and I knew the guys were waiting back however many feet or yards--I'm not really sure, it was dark out--got him back within 10 feet," said Leisenring.  "It was a bit of a struggle, but you know, knowing that the guys were right there, I took a deep breath and sort of shoved him towards them.  They yanked him right out." 

Exhausted from the challenging swim, Leisenring said team members pulled him back onto dry land where he caught his breath.  

Coach Leisenring said the man he rescued was naked and clearly suffering from some sort of mental health issue, but did thank him for saving his life.  

"When something like that traumatic happens [...] you know, you're thankful for everything that people have done for you and certainly you'd hope that if you were in that situation someone would help you out," said Leisenring.

Surprisingly, this was not the first time Leisenring had taken a dip in the St. John's River.  He jumped into the water as part of a bet on an earlier team trip to Jacksonville.

The Icemen recognized Leisenring for his act of heroism before their game Friday night. 

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