Former Bastrop High and Northwestern State University linebacker Rogers Loche will begin pursuing his doctorate degree in counseling psychology at Oklahoma State University, starting in the fall.

Rogers Loche III has found an unlikely substitute for his passion for football. Three years after playing in his final football game for Northwestern State University, Loche finds studying mental health to be both gratifying and fascinating. Come fall, Loche will begin pursuing his doctorate degree in counseling psychology at Oklahoma State University.

“I'm just as passionate about mental health as I was about football,” said Loche, who was informed that he had been accepted into Oklahoma State's Ph.D. program earlier this month.

Loche also hopes to change the perception of mental health, a subject that typically conjures up images of serial killers and psychiatric wards.

“People look at mental health as someone being psychotic or having something wrong with them,” Loche said, “but mental health is important to all of us even if it's just in the way we live our everyday lives. To be where we want to be and to do what we want to do in an effective way requires a sound mental state.

“It's not just about the Sandy Hook incident or the shooting at the theatre in Denver or even someone getting fired from a job. Mental health is everywhere in everyday life.”

Loche will pursue a four-year course at OSU, which includes three years in the classroom and a one-year internship.

“My ultimate goal is to become an educator and to become a professor of psychology,” Loche said. “I would like to specialize in working with young adults. I feel that being in a college setting would allow me the best opportunity to be a positive educator and mentor to young adults. I feel like I would be able to provide a lot in that type of environment.”

Loche says his career path was influenced by a number of teachers as a student in the Morehouse Parish School System.

“I have to give praise to my upbringing,” said Loche, the son of Rogers II and Donna Loche. “In the school system I came through, I was fortunate to have educators who were hands-on and really part of my life. My mission is to pass on what I have learned.”

Ultimately, Loche hopes to work with athletes, focusing on the mental aspect of sports.

“Within the specialized population, I would like to work with athletes, helping them with the basic mental functions of their performance,” Loche said. “A lot of people don't understand that within sports, the mental part of the game is what so often separates the great athlete from the good athlete. Having athletic ability takes you a long way, but the mental side will take you further. Of course, I'm extremely interested in that area, given my background.”

Loche was first exposed to the importance of the mental side of football during his distinguished football career at Bastrop High. A four-year starting linebacker, earning first-team All-District acclaim all four years, Loche earned District MVP and All-State honors for the Rams.

Though tough and demanding, then-Bastrop coach Brad Bradshaw got results.

“Brad was so intelligent — I don't think a lot of people realize that about him,” Loche said. “He wasn't always about Xs and Os. He was about having a tough work ethic and applying it. He was a master mind at that.”

Signing with Ole Miss out of high school, Loche dealt with adversity on the football field for the first time in his life. Football had always come easy, but Loche grew frustrated while mired near the bottom of the depth chart.

“You have to be strong mentally to compete in the SEC,” Loche said. “I was an 18-year-old kid and I didn't know what I was getting into.”

After a year and a half in Oxford, Loche transferred to Northwestern State University in Natchitoches where he earned second-team All-Southland Conference honors as a senior.

Unable to land a free agent contract with an NFL team, Loche returned to Northwestern, obtaining his master's degree in clinical psychology in August of 2012. Besides working as a graduate assistant in the clinical psychology department, he served as a volunteer coach for the Demons during the 2011 season.

“I was mostly a mentor for the student-athletes,” Loche said of his coaching fling.

Since moving to Stillwater a year ago, Loche has held down two jobs. Along with a full-time position at Cimarron Correctional Facility in nearby Cushing, Okla., Loche works part-time with the Oklahoma Department of Health Services.

At Cimarron, Loche is a counselor for Puerto Rican inmates. Hindsight being 20-20, he wishes he would have taken more Spanish classes.

“The language barrier has been a challenge,” Loche admitted. “I'm not fluent in Spanish, but I have gotten better, so I can communicate with them more effectively. I do have a translator.”

So, how did Loche come to work with Puerto Rican inmates in spite of his shortcomings in Spanish?

“We have a contract with Puerto Rico, so they send some of their inmates here,” Loche said. “Teaching skills such as plumbing, allowing them to work towards their GED and the substance abuse program are all within the contract.”

In his job with the Oklahoma DHS, Loche is a rehab specialist, specializing in adolescent psychology.

“I work in child protective services with children who are under foster care,” Loche said. “I rehab with them and nourish them through a lot of adverse times. I'm pretty much just helping them cope and get through everyday life in an effective way.”

It's a role that is both heartbreaking and rewarding.

“These kids have been separated from their families and have to make the transition to a new life several times a year,” Loche said. “I take pride in being someone they can confide in.”

Wherever his chosen field takes him, Loche plans to continue promoting mental health.

“People are just becoming aware of mental health,” Loche said. “It's important for everybody, not just in everyday competition. It's important for young and old alike.”

Loche was a difference-maker on the football field. Not too far down the road, he hopes to make a bigger impact on society as Dr. Loche.