Former football star working from new playbook

On July 30, 88 armed school safety guardians swore an oath to protect Polk County students during a graduation ceremony at the RP Funding Center in Lakeland.


As of Monday, Ronnie Ghent has a whole new playbook.

For years, all the way back to his days as a football star at Lakeland High, Louisville, and even in the National Football League, Ghent had most of his moves already planned out for him on paper. Where to run, who to block, it was all there on paper for Ghent to follow.

Not anymore. Three days ago, he started a new career, as one of the first class of 87 Polk County School Guardians, hired, armed and trained to do everything he can to keep his school campus safe and secure.

“Being in the school system, I've always considered myself a protector of kids anyway,” Ghent said. “My wife and I were talking and it's funny, she felt the same way, that if something were to happen, that I would have done something anyway.”

To be sure, there are procedures to follow and protocols to be put in place. But if and when his services might truly be needed, the playbook he learns from now will only help him so much.

“You can practice things, but it's so funny how that works. There's catches I've made in games, and plays I've made in games, and they're something you can't anticipate, you just have to do it,” he noted. “If a situation happens, I think it's going to be the same thing.”

Much like football, and the years of training he put into that sport, he's finding lots of parallels between the gridiron and the guardian post he now occupies, part of a new group with a singular goal.

“It's all a team. And it's a bond we will always have. We're the first class. We were put into kind of a unique situation. I hope we leave a good impression to where this spread all over the state. It's mind blowing that 600 applied and only 87 made it at the time,” he said. “

Ghent has worked for the school district since 2008, as a paraprofessional and coach, most recently with the Tenoroc program. He also spent a season on the sidelines at Southeastern University thanks to an internship program run through the National Football League Players Association.

He's taking a year off from the sidelines this fall with all the changes in his life, including a youngster little over a year old. His job is also personal; he has a 12-year old as well.

“If anything were to happen at my house, I would protect my family. The school is my family so I'm going to protect them as well,” Ghent continued. “The training was very intense. You were put into some situations where you had to think fast and react, so I think we're all fully prepared. But at some point in time, my father instincts will kick in. I love these kids just like I love my own. It's one of those deals if it did happen, then I'll have to do what I have to do, just protect the kids and the faculty.”


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