Former East Central University football player Dr. John Gaines said his time in Ada had a great impact on his life and now he’s ready to return the favor and help out local residents during the coronavirus crisis.

Gaines published a children’s book — “Kia the Queen” — last year and wants to distribute a free six-week workbook  for kids ages 6-10 that accompanies it to Ada parents who were forced to teach their kids at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would like to give back to the Ada community because of everything Ada did for me while I was a student at ECU,” Gaines told The Ada News.

Gaines is currently a youth advocate, mentorship expert and motivational speaker and wrote “Kia the Queen” to inspire kids to “dream and never give up.”

He has appeared as a guest speaker at universities, corporations, nonprofit events, NBA skill camps, school assemblies and youth camps across the country.

Gaines was on the receiving end of much valuable mentorship while at East Central.

“I had so many great mentors at ECU,” he said. “One of my favorite memories was attending Mike Smith’s athletes’ Bible study at ECU. He is still a great friend and mentor.”

Gaines mentioned three other men who had a big influence on his life during his football playing days — Ada head football coach Chris Berus, business instructor Dean Godwin and counselor Toby Ross.

“(Berus) is someone I still keep in touch with. He is still a great mentor for me,” Gaines said. “I had such a great time at the school of business and learning from Dean Godwin his first year. He was innovative and helped me build a strong foundation. He is a big reason why I have my doctorate in business today. The time I spent with Toby Ross and his campus ministry was monumental in my development as a man.”

Gaines was a running back for the Tigers and helped East Central win a Lone Star Conference North Division championship in 2010.

“Obviously, playing football was fun and the relationships that I built with the players and coach (Tim) McCarty, who is still a dear friend of mine. Although I battled a lot of injuries, we won a championship, and it is something I will never forget,” he recalled.

Gaines said he earned his nickname “PUSH” because he believes in the power of perseverance and teaches others to “keep pushing” through life’s obstacles to become the best version of themselves.

He stressed that the parents can request his workbook at no cost by emailing an address to

“The workbook comes with a parent guide that allows parents to walk through the workbook to help as children learn from home. No purchase is necessary,” he said.

Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.

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