Eric Mayes is an education professor, college football coach at Johns Hopkins University and a former American football linebacker. His research focuses on the impact of culture on learning, cognition and leadership development. Mayes was the associate director of the Merrill-Palmer Skillman Institute at Wayne State University in Detroit.
Mayes played for the University of Michigan football team as a walk-on and was later elected co-captain of the undefeated 1997 Michigan Wolverines football team that won the Associated Press national championship. Mayes, called "Zeus" by his teammates, was such a motivational and inspirational leader that after suffering a season-ending injury during the teams national championship run, his teammates handed him the Big Ten Conference championship trophy, hoisted him on their shoulders and carried him off the field after defeating Ohio State at Michigan Stadium, 20–14. During the team's visit with Bill Clinton at the White House, Mayes presented the President with a Michigan jersey and made him an honorary "Michigan Man."
At the end of his playing career, Mayes enrolled in graduate school at the University of Michigan and worked with the University of Michigan football team on student-athlete development. After graduating with a Master of Science in educational technology from Michigan, Mayes worked as a high school technology teacher and linebacker coach in Detroit, before earning his Ph.D. in educational psychology from Howard University. He later graduated from Harvard University with a post doctorate master's degree in education policy and management. After working on national policy issues in Washington, D.C., Mayes joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins University.