Nico Johnson signs with Alabama at 2 p.m.

Published 8:48 pm Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Andalusia High School football star Nico Johnson will make many people proud — including his family, coaches and community — as he signs his letter of commitment today to the University of Alabama.

Johnson will sign today at 2 p.m. in the auditorium at Andalusia High School. The public is invited to attend.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “Everybody is asking if I am nervous about it, but it’s nothing really. It’s just signing a piece of paper and playing football next year.”

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In September 2008, Johnson verbally declared his intent to play at Alabama.

“To me, I don’t think it’s a big deal, but it’s a pleasure to be the only one out of my momma’s family that will go on to college,” Johnson said. “It’s been a while since I verbally committed, but I have been looking forward to that day.”

According to his mother, Mamie Johnson, Nico always treated everybody with respect.

“Nico was a different child,” she said. “He was one of those kids I have been proud of since day one until now. He never gave me any trouble. He’s always been that sweet child.

“Nico is one of those kids that everybody grows to love,” she said.

Mamie Johnson said it means a lot that one of her children will go to college.

“My other kids had the opportunity, but they never took advantage,” she said. “Nico is taking this advantage and wants to do better for himself. He wants to improve his life and he always puts God first and I’ve told him that. He always puts God first and it means a whole lot to me to see that he is going forward and not backwards.

“I did the best I could raising him and I thank God for that,” she said.

One of Nico Johnson’s brothers, Joshua, will be unable to make it to the signing today because he is serving a tour of duty in Iraq.

As a player as well as a student, Johnson excelled both on and off the field.

Former Andalusia coach Tom Causey, who is now at Demopolis High School and was Johnson’s coach for his freshman and sophomore seasons, said he made a huge impact on the team even then.

“Nico was an automatic impact player for us as a ninth grader,” Causey said. “There was never any doubt. He had a great work ethic and came from a great family. He’s definitely a high character young man and he’s going to be very successful at the next level because of that,” he said.

Causey said Johnson filled in his role as a young player.

“His role as a ninth and tenth grader wasn’t as it should have been as a junior and a senior, obviously,” he said. “We had some good players such as Brannon Bryan as an inside linebacker with him and Michael Berry out there.

“He just played his role and he never played outside of that,” he said. “He did exactly what we asked him to do and he was still a young guy obviously in the ninth grade. He finally figured out in the middle of his 10th grade year that, physically, he can play with anybody. I expected him to be at this level.”

“I just want to wish him and his family the best of luck and I know he’s making a lot of folks proud,” Causey said. “I’m looking forward to having an opportunity to watching him play next year.”

Off the field in school, Andalusia High School principal Dr. Daniel Shakespeare said Johnson is a model student.

“Nico has been a model student around the school for the past four years,” Shakespeare said. “He’s done everything that we have asked him to do as far as leadership and being a role model for young kids. I can’t say enough about the job that kid has done and has how he has carried himself at Andalusia High School for four years.

“I think he’s been an asset to the high school and to the Andalusia community,” he said. “I think he’ll represent the city of Andalusia and high school very well at the University of Alabama.”

Current Andalusia head football coach Brian Seymore said Johnson’s potential was always evident. Seymore served as an assistant coach under Causey.

“As a sophomore, you saw the potential,” Seymore said. “He made plays like he did when he was a senior. He was just learning to play the linebacker position. He had raw skills going from sideline to sideline.

“He had problems with the fundamental plays at times but, as he grew, he understood the position and grew with it. He became the cornerstone of the defense.”

Seymore added Johnson earned the respect of the coaches, administration and the community with the way “he conducts himself on a daily basis.”

“I think that’s what sets Nico apart,” Seymore said. “He avoided the temptations of a lot of things. That goes right back to the way he was raised. They did a great job raising that boy. He was in a tough situation and instead of making excuses, he flourished and blossomed from it.

“I hope young kids look at him as a role model because it’s tough,” he said. “There are so many things out there in society that can pull you away and can make you lose your focus. He stayed focused and I think that this was his ultimate goal. He wanted to play at the next level. By doing the little things he did right, it paid off.”

Seymore said Johnson is a player who has a fulfilling life ahead of him.

“I’m just so proud that he has a chance to be a great player beyond the next level,” he said. “He’s a great player and I hope he stays healthy because I think that if the good Lord blesses him and he stays healthy and injury free, he could use this one day to help his family. It just seems like he was destined for greatness. Whatever he wishes for in life, I hope he gets it.”