Bristol community mourning loss of long-time coach and teacher, Trea Leonard

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BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – It’s a tough week for the community of Bristol, Tennessee as they suffer from yet another loss, not only in their school system but in the same program.

Last weekend, Tennessee High School junior and star football player Micah Montgomery drowned, and not even a week later, Tennessee High defensive ends coach Trea Leonard has also died.

“Your heart just aches for them, especially those football players. People they’ve had blood, sweat, and tears with over the past few weeks with practice and getting ready for games, it’s just heartbreaking,” said former Volunteer High Athletic Director Jim Whalen.

Leonard’s impact reaches far beyond the Bristol community. Whalen hired him years ago to coach football at Volunteer. Whalen said he was a ray of light, loyal to his faith, and never met a stranger, but he knew his heart belonged in Bristol.

“He was so loyal to us when he was at Volunteer, but he’s Tennessee High through and true,” he said.

Around 2015, Leonard was hired on to help the Vikings defensively and has done so throughout the years. Tennessee High School Athletic Director Barry Wade said he was more than just a coach to the staff and players.

“Coach Leonard was just our rock here at Tennessee High School. He was somebody that we could go to and he would find ways just to make us feel better. With any questions we had or anything we needed to talk about or were struggling with, many of us would go to Coach Leonard simply because he had that answer for us,” said Wade.

While he coached the football team at the local high school, students knew him best as a 7th-grade social studies teacher at Bristol Tennessee Middle School.

Monday morning, counselors were brought in to help those young students cope with this sudden loss.

“One of the students stopped me and hugged me and said he was the best teacher I’ve ever had, I really knew he loved me, and that’s the type of person he was,” said Bristol Tennessee Middle School Principal Seymour Ray.

The football team at Tennessee High also met to discuss the passing of Coach Leonard and it was a tough day for those who knew and loved him.

“It was a little bit difficult to come in this morning but I know he would want me to. He would want me to smile and he would want me to make these kids smile, so that’s my big thing,” said Wade.

As of right now, the school system has not released any official plans for a memorial but Wade feels they will most likely do something at the upcoming game to honor Coach Leonard’s life.

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