Christa Mann rarely takes a minute off.

In her four years at Georgia State, the defender from Peachtree City started all 77 games in her career to rank sixth in all-time starts and, along the way, she rarely sat a second. Off the pitch, the defensive stopper maintained her relentless pace while pursuing experience in journalism through serving as a sideline reporter for college basketball broadcasts, a game-day assistant for the Atlanta Falcons and an intern at WXIA TV.

Now, her unbridled energy has led Christa to a professional contract with the Afturelding Football Club in Iceland, making her State’s first women’s soccer player to ink a paid deal with a pro club. And fittingly, Christa has played every minute in her first seven professional matches.

“This is seriously the dream of a lifetime,” said Mann, who was thrice honored as a Peach of an Athlete Role Model by the Atlanta-area council of Boy Scouts. “To be able to play the sport I love professionally is unbelievable, as is Iceland. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous and I’m having the time of my life.”

Mann joined Georgia State from McIntosh High School in Peachtree City where she led her team to three consecutive Region championships. Once a Panther, she immediately contributed to a defensive unit that ranked 19th nationally and recorded nine shutouts in her freshman season.

Although Mann was plainly one of the top athletes on the field at any time, she never focused on a professional career playing soccer, but instead trained in the classroom for a career in sports journalism. However, when approached with the opportunity to play professionally, Mann decided to put her pen down in favor of cleats.

“It was an unbelievable feeling to find out I was going to sign a contract, but I had a million thoughts going through my head,” explained Mann. I had spent all of this time preparing for a career in broadcasting, and I had to decide to put all of that on hold for six months or more.”

Now that she is playing professionally, journalism might be on hold longer.

“I think every amateur athlete dreams of being able to play professionally, but my goal was always a career in journalism,” said Mann. “But, I love the sport so much that I really can't see myself away from it. I am definitely going to play as long as I can and somehow get into the journalism thing somewhere along the way.”

And even if Mann plays professional soccer for an extended time, she is convinced it will only make her a better soccer reporter as she trains athletetically.

“I think right now my biggest goal is to train and become a better player out here,” said Mann. “I am learning a great deal about European soccer and the players, so in a sense, I am gaining knowledge that will benefit me in a journalistic career as well.”

When she is finished on the pitch, her charisma, talent and dedication will likely allow Mann to make an easy move into an on-camera role. But while those traits will serve her well professionally, her competitive drive might be Mann’s greatest asset.

“Ideally, I would like transition right off the field into a role in front of the camera,” said Mann. “Of course both areas are extremely competitive, so it's really going to be a challenge to have success in professional soccer and broadcasting, but I love competition.”

In addition to Mann’s exploits in Iceland, a number of other Panthers, both current and former, are having success in the professional ranks.

Armin Marquez continues his second year of professional soccer with the Zamora Futbol Club of Venezuela, a first division premier team in Marquez’s native country. Marquez starts as a defender, just as he did at Georgia State during his all-conference career that concluded in 2005-06. His team plays in a 30,000-seat stadium in Barines, Venezuela and Marquez still wears number 13 as he did with the Panthers.

Chris Mahaffey is playing for the local Atlanta Silverbacks of the United Soccer League. Mahaffey wears No. 24 for the Silverbacks and has played in nine of the team’s first 12 games. The midfielder from Conyers was the State AAAA Player of the Year with Heritage High School, the top-ranked team in the nation and two-time state champions.

Furthermore, three current Panthers are playing with the Atlanta Silverbacks at varying levels. Rising senior Kay Harbrueger plays for the Atlanta Silverbacks USL W-League squad and has tallied one goal in eight appearances. Meanwhile, two men’s soccer standouts, Joe Devito and Filipe Carvalho, are currently competing on the U-23 PDL Silverbacks team.

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