Photo courtesy of UNLV
Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Jalil Briley had walked these hallways hundreds of times. But back then, when Briley was a student at Mabel Hoggard Elementary School near downtown, he didn’t have to worry about hitting his head on the ceiling.
The 6-foot-3 Briley credits the lessons he learned at Hoggard for preparing him to reach college, where he’s a defensive lineman at UNLV.
Briley was one of three Rebels on Friday to visit a teacher who impacted them during their childhood in Las Vegas. For Briley, that educator was Christopher Ho, his fourth-grade teacher at Hoggard.
“He’s the teacher that taught me the most, especially math skills,” Briley said. “I still use what he taught me today (in college).”
Briley was approached by UNLV officials after practice last week to take part in the Extra Yard for Teachers initiative by the College Football Playoff Foundation. He immediately thought of Ho.
Briley made a surprise visit to Ho’s classroom and presented him with a gift basket of UNLV football swag, including tickets to the San Jose game at the end of the month. Ho had no idea Briley was stopping by, which cued smiles and a hug between the two, and an excited class of fourth-graders.
Briley’s pride in being back in his old neighborhood was obvious. He pointed to the area where he lived and had a smile from ear-to-ear when talking with school officials.
“This school is so great. It means so much to me,” Briley said. “This is so rewarding. You never know when you will get the chance to come back.”
UNLV coach Tony Sanchez always encourages community appearances, knowing that more interaction with residents means that more fans will show up at Sam Boyd Stadium on game day. In Briley, he has a willing sidekick.
“I want to give back to this community as much as I can,” he said.
Ho, who has taught at the school since 2006 and also met his wife there, described Briley as a good student who was always on task. More important, having Briley stop by helps reaffirm to his current students the importance of being diligent with their studies.
“What they are learning now, even in fourth grade, translates to college,” Ho said.
Briley asked Ho if he still used a certain technique in teaching math — the same technique Briley relies on in college. Ho jokingly responded that it’s outdated.
Briley’s teammates — Greg Francis (Robert Forbuss Elementary) and Dalton Baker (John Bass Elementary) — also returned to their grade schools as part of the program.